You will need to consider s. 15 in assessing legislation, a policy or a program where it:

  • regulates what anyone can say, write or communicate through their art or actions (for example, regulates the contents of any speech, publication, broadcast, display or promotion; regulates offensive speech);
  • regulates the format of any expression (for example, restricts political leaflets to black-and-white printing);
  • regulates the time, place or manner of any form of expression (for example, regulates the number of people who can participate in a street march; prohibits ‘busking’ in particular areas; restricts protesters’ access to particular places);
  • restricts or censors media coverage;
  • requires a person to obtain prior approval before expression may lawfully occur (for example, street demonstrations);
  • requires particular material to be reviewed or approved before it is published;
  • attaches criminal or civil liability to the publication of ideas, opinions or information;121
  • compels someone to express information (for example, a subpoena);
  • regulates or restricts an individual’s access to information (including access to material on the internet);
  • penalises or disadvantages any person on the basis of their opinions;
  • imposes a dress code (for example, a dress code that prohibits staff from wearing t-shirts with ‘political messages’ will engage this right).

Some specific and commonly encountered triggers for the right to freedom of expression are:

  • reporting of judicial proceedings;
  • censorship and classification;
  • busking;
  • public disorderly conduct;
  • commercial expression – advertising;
  • public servants expressing political opinions;
  • interception of prisoner’s mail and monitoring of telephone calls;
  • telephone interception.

These policy triggers are not comprehensive.




121 Lingens v. Austria (1986) 103 Eur Court HR (ser A); (1986) 8 EHRR 407.