Suriname earns high marks for respect for freedom to inform, given the rarity of attacks on journalists and the diversity of its media.
The country enjoys a pluralist media landscape. The two major private papers are De Ware Tijd and De West.
Suriname is a parliamentary republic, in which the National Assembly’s 51 members, each elected to a five-year term, choose the president, who is also head of government. Chandirapersad “Chan” Santokhi was inaugurated in July 2020.
The Constitution guarantees freedom of the press. However, an extremely harsh defamation law provides for penalties of up to seven years in prison for “public expression of hate” toward the government.
Suriname is a small country whose economy is based on extractive industries and depends heavily on foreign trade. The mining industry accounts for more than one-third of GDP and government revenues. The press and journalists, for their part, suffer from lack of training and resources.
Suriname gained independence in 1975. As the only Dutch-speaking country on the continent, Suriname’s culture kept it remote from the regional political scene. Adding to the isolation was its inaccessibility, its political orientation during the final years of the Cold War – siding with Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Salvadoran guerrilla movement – and its own civil war, which raged from 1986-1992.
The press frequently publishes reports critical of the government. This occasionally provokes official pressure and intimidation of journalists, leading to self-censorship.