Freedom of Expression: Comparative Law Perspectives

Course Description: 

This course considers the law of freedom of expression from comparative law perspectives. It begins with an examination of some of the principal justifications for the human right to freedom of expression as an indispensable condition for the full development of the person and as a foundation for every free and democratic society. Whilst the course pays due attention to international law on freedom of expression, it focuses on the emergence and evolution of the protection of freedom of expression (or freedom of speech) in Europe, under the European Convention on Human Rights, and in the United States, under the First Amendment. It examines key jurisprudence on the permissible limitations on freedom of expression on the grounds of other rights (such as equality or non-discrimination) or interests (such as public order and national security). In doing so, the course addresses the challenges to freedom of expression posed by, among other things, the regulation of offensive and extremist speech, laws on “hate speech” and incitement, the regulation of the media, defamation laws and anti-terrorism legislation.

Learning Outcomes: 

1. Ability to benefit from a substantial knowledge of human rights law in major jurisdictions via a comparative perspective at a basic level.

2. Ability to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of some substantive areas of international human rights law at a basic level.

3. Ability to benefit from a substantial understanding of the institutional and procedural framework of human rights enforcement.

4. Ability to use cases and precedents in legal reasoning at a basic level.

5. Ability to provide genuine solutions to complex constitutional and human rights problems using comparative arguments.


The final grade will be based on class participation (10%), two written assignments (15% each, 30% in total) and one final, closed book exam (60%).