2015 Scores

Press Status: Free
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst): 29
Legal Environment (0 = best, 30 = worst): 8
Political Environment (0 = best, 40 = worst): 14
Economic Environment (0 = best, 30 = worst): 7

Legal Environment

The government generally respects freedom of expression and the press, as guaranteed under Article 19 of the country's constitution. However, Suriname continues to lack freedom of information legislation and has some of the most severe criminal defamation laws in the Caribbean. These include prison sentences of up to seven years for "public expression of enmity, hatred, or contempt" toward the government, and up to five years' imprisonment for insulting the head of state. Defamation cases have been brought against journalists in recent years. In May 2014, lawmaker Noreen Cheung threatened to sue the monthly magazine Parbode for libel after it quoted her as expressing doubt about controversial 2012 amnesty legislation that granted President Dési Bouterse immunity from prosecution in a murder case.

Bouterse, a former dictator, had returned to the presidency in 2010 after winning a democratic election, despite being on trial since 2007 for the 1982 murders of 15 political opponents, including five journalists. The 2012 amendment to the Amnesty Law then granted immunity to Bouterse and the 24 other suspects in the murders. Bouterse was planning to run for reelection in 2015. These circumstances made any conviction unlikely and contributed to a climate of impunity for crimes against journalists and the media.

While there are no legal restrictions on internet access, journalists have accused the government of monitoring their e-mail and social-media accounts.

Political Environment

There are indications that self-censorship significantly hampers freedom of expression in the Surinamese media. The head of the Association of Surinamese Journalists (SVJ) said in an interview in October 2014 that although there are no cases of physical harassment, the government undermines press freedom. Little investigative journalism takes place due to pressure and intimidation from government officials, who often refuse to give information to journalists affiliated with opposition papers and instead limit their media contacts to state television. Coverage of certain issues, such as drug trafficking and the human rights abuses that took place under the Bouterse dictatorship in the 1980s, is also discouraged.

In November 2014, the Surinamese government denied entry to Dutch journalist John van den Heuvel, allegedly because of a criminal investigation. However, van den Heuvel said the decision may have stemmed from his plans to report on the presidential candidates, including Bouterse, in the run-up to the 2015 election. Van den Heuvel had previously produced critical coverage of the Bouterse administration.

Economic Environment

Suriname has a fairly diverse media sector, with numerous print publications. The two main daily newspapers, De Ware Tijd and De West, are both privately owned and maintain independent websites. There are many radio stations, including government-owned Stichting Radio Omroep Suriname (SRS), as well as several private and two state-owned television stations. Many media outlets are affiliated with particular political parties, which sometimes exert influence over news coverage. Chinese investment has recently surged in Suriname, resulting in an upgrade of the state television network. The growing Chinese community has created two daily newspapers and a television station that operates in Mandarin.

Approximately 41 percent of the population had access to the internet in 2014. Access is readily available in urban areas but much more limited in interior sections of the country.

The SVJ has reported that low salaries and poor training for journalists have hurt the profession, and in January 2013 it raised concerns about plagiarism in the industry. Government advertising is reportedly often allocated in a politicized manner.

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