Media law exercise - A robbery at Nuriz Pharmacy

This exercise has been designed to test your knowledge of media law, particularly in the areas of defamation and court reporting. We follow a criminal case through from the crime to the end of the court case. At various steps along the way, you will have to make decisions about what you can and cannot publish. In most cases, you will be asked to delete any material which could be legally unsafe to use.

You can find a link to suggested answers at the end of this exercise.


1. Imagine you are a senior journalist in the newsroom of a radio station or a daily newspaper in Port Moresby. A junior colleague hands you the following story about a robbery last night at a chemist shop in the city centre.

        Police in Port Moresby are hunting a thief who stole $5,000 after beating a shop assistant over the head with an iron bar.

        The robbery took place at The Nuriz Pharmacy in Tabari Place, Boroko, shortly after 10 o'clock last night.

        Police say a man walked into the shop as the assistant was closing, beat her to the ground with a long iron bar and ran off with the weekend's takings.

        The woman, Mrs Mary Lee of Gahunagaudi Drive, Gerehu, underwent emergency surgery at Port Moresby General Hospital, where her condition is said to be stable.

        Police believe the attacker was a drug addict seen hanging around Boroko for the past week.

        They say he is extremely dangerous and warn the public not to approach him.

        Inspector Hari Eli said shop assistants should take extra care when closing late at night.

        He said the shop owner, Mr Jo Nuriz, had been stupid and negligent in allowing Mrs Lee to lock up on her own.

Delete any paragraphs which might be legally unsafe.


2. You contact the chemist shop owner, Mr Nuriz, for comments and write the following story:

        The owner of a Boroko chemist shop today called for a crackdown on drug addicts after one of his staff was badly beaten in a robbery.

        Mr Jo Nuriz said police should be given wider powers to arrest drug addicts found loitering on the street.

        Police believe that a drug addict robbed Mr Nuriz's pharmacy in Tabari Place on Sunday night, after battering an assistant with an iron bar.

        Mr Nuriz said the suspect had been seen hanging around Boroko for several days.

        Police say the man they are hunting is aged about 21, tall and very thin, with dark curly hair and a long scar on his left cheek.

Just before your copy deadline, the police tell you that they have arrested the man they were hunting and that they are about to charge him with robbery. You will have to write a new story including the latest details. Which paragraphs of the above story, if any, are now unsafe to use?


3. After several weeks, the case goes for trial before a jury at the National Court. On the second day of the trial, a colleague who is covering the trial comes back and hands you the following story to check:

        A 20-year-old man today told the National Court that he had never been within a hundred kilometres of a chemist's shop in Boroko he is accused of robbing.

        Frank Tanget, from Lae, said he had never visited Port Moresby in his life and could not have robbed the shop in Tabari Place and beaten the assistant over the head with an iron bar.

        Tanget has pleaded not guilty to charges of robbery and attempted murder at The Nuriz Pharmacy on August 18.

        He told the court he had been a drug addict since the age of 12, but had never been in trouble with the law.

        The shop owner, Jo Nuriz, spoke to reporters outside the court. He told them that he knew for a fact that Tanget had already been convicted twice for assault.

What paragraphs of the above story, if any, would you need to delete?


4. The trial continues. The news editor asks you to prepare a background feature for possible use when the trial ends. He suggests that you interview a friend of his who is a member of the jury. What would you do?


5. Your colleagues continue to report the trial as it proceeds and you prepare your background feature, which contains seven interviews, mainly trying to explain why a young person such as Tanget turns to drugs and crime. The news editor tells you it is a good feature. The jury is expected to reach its verdict today, so you schedule the feature to run in the next edition. Now you learn that Tanget has been found NOT GUILTY. Can you use the background feature? What are the reasons for your decision?


6. The same day, your colleague who was in court returns with the following story. He has included comments from a press conference held by Inspector Hari Eli outside the court:

        A 22-year-old self-confessed drug addict has been cleared of robbery and attempting to murder a shop assistant in Boroko last year.

        Supreme Court Justice Leo Breadfruit found Frank Tanget not guilty of robbery and attempted murder at Nuriz Pharmacy.

        Tanget, who was arrested last September in Lae, had told the court that police had made up evidence against him.

        At a press conference outside the court, Inspector Hari Eli said that Tanget had long been a thorn in the side of the law.

        He said that only a last-minute change in the evidence of one witness had saved Tanget from a long stretch in prison.

What paragraphs, if any, would you delete from this story?


7. Following the verdict, the victim of the attack, Mrs Mary Lee telephones your colleague, who interviews her and writes the following story:

        A Boroko shop assistant says she will never fully recover from a beating she received during a robbery last year.

        Mrs Mary Lee was finishing a day's work at Jo Nuriz's chemist shop in Tabari Place last August when she was attacked by a man wielding an iron bar.

        She spent three months in hospital and still needs a wheelchair to move around. Doctors have told her she may never walk again.

        The Supreme Court yesterday found a 22-year-old Lae man, Frank Tanget, not guilty of robbery and attempting to murder Mrs Lee.

        Mrs Lee said she could not understand why the judge reached such a verdict. She said she had given him evidence clearly identifying Tanget as the attacker.

What paragraphs, if any, would you delete from the above story?


You can find suggested answers here:

^^back to the top


Index of exercises
  1. Writing the intro exercise
  2. Writing the news story exercise
  3. Robbery at Nuriz Pharmacy
Chapters associated with this exercise:

64. Court reporting - the rules
65. Court reporting - how to do it
66. Court reporting - a case in practice
67. Privilege
68. Contempt
69. Defamation - what you cannot do
70. Defamation - what you can do


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