Course content

The course aims at developing knowledge and understanding regarding law and regulations about media, journalism, public communication and freedom of expression in a European and comparative perspective.

The course focuses on right to freedom of communication and the most important restrictions on content, such as hate speech, racism and incitement to violence, libel and defamation, disrespecting privacy or confidentiality. Regulation of court and crime reporting is analysed, as well as specific journalists’ rights such as the protection of journalistic sources. The protection of children’s interests is another issue of particular attention.

The central theme is the balancing of freedom of expression and other human rights and interests. Studies will be conducted regarding civil and criminal liability, censorship and prior classification of content, broadcasting law and regulation of audiovisual media services, advertising regulation, freedom of political and artistic expression, freedom of expression and anti-terror policy, responsible journalism, freedom of expression on internet, freedom of expression for lawyers, whistleblowing and the right of access to official documents.

The analysis of the Strasbourg Court’s case law will make the students aware of some specific media law issues and characteristics in other EU-member States and in other member states of the Council of Europe.

The course also analyses EU-law: such as the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, the E-Commerce Directive (liability of ISP’s for illegal content), the Directive on Copyright in the Information Society (from the perspective of the “free flow of information”) and the Personal Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (in relation to journalism and freedom of expression and information).

Learning outcome

- Analyse the characteristics of national and international media law and a profound understanding of the relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
- Put into perspective the case law of the European Court of Human Rights with regard to freedom of expression and media regulation.
- Compare the reasoning of the European Court with the characteristics of national law and jurisprudence.
- Discuss the importance of freedom of expression in a democratic society and put into perspective the interdependent but also the ambiguous relation between freedom of expression and other human rights.
- Explain the margin of appreciation in legitimizing restrictions on freedom of expression and media regulation.
- Identify, analyse and discuss international sources of media law and freedom of expression.
- Critically reflect on central issues of media law and freedom of expression (and its limits).
- Present media law policy aspects and specific issues or problems in media law in other EU-member States or in other member states of the Council of Europe and explain these issues in a broader context, systematically and with consistency.
- Reflect critically to all kinds of interferences by public authorities in the freedom of expression and information, taking into account the rights and duties involved regarding the respect for other human rights and other (legal) interests.
- Explain, discuss, argue and present solutions how to regulate or mediate the conflicting interests between freedom of expression and right of privacy, freedom of religion, presumption of innocence and fair trial interests, personality rights, protection of secrecy and confidentiality, public security interests, intellectual property rights, minority rights and economic and commercial interests.
- Communicate and formulate their knowledge and arguments professionally and linguistically correct and in a way that is structured and coherent.

The course is a combination of lectures, presentation of papers by students, analysis of case law, group discussion and the weekly presentation of an "actual window". It also includes drafting of the synopsis. Students prepare documentation or read some articles, policy documents or case law in advance. Each session contains short presentations by students and an interactive workshop, followed by feedback by the lecturer. Consultancy on the synopsis is collective and individual.

Dirk Voorhoof and Eva Lievens
European Media Law,
Collection of Materials 2016-2017 (Ed.), Antwperen, Knops Publishing, 2016, 294 p., ISBN 978-9-

2 or 3 chapters in book, for together approx. 80 pages
Council of Europe,
Journalism at risk, Council of Europe Publ. 2015, 266 p., ISBN 978-92-871-8120-6

A fair knowledge of the English language is a minimum requirement. The course builds upon the knowledge and skills the students have developed during their BA in law, specifically in thee domains of civil law, criminal law, public law, and international and EU-law. Related courses are Human Rights law, IP-law, ICT-law.

Foreign students are invited to bring or organise access to relevant sources of their own national media and information law, as this material will also be used during the course.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
Oral exam based on synopsis, 20 minutes
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Seminar
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 178,25
  • English
  • 206,25