Suriname police car
A police car outside a Suriname court. Surinamese journalist Mones Nazarali was arrested and charged with defamation and several other crimes on May 3, 2022. (Reuters/Ranu Abhelakh)

Suriname journalist detained, investigated on defamation charges after reporting on police

Miami, May 9, 2022 – Surinamese authorities should stop detaining and charging journalists for their work and scrap the country’s criminal defamation laws, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On May 3, journalist Mones Nazarali turned himself in at the police headquarters in the city of Nieuw Nickerie, in Suriname’s Nickerie district, after being summoned by the police following a criminal complaint, according to news reports and Vishmohanie Thomas, president of the Association of Surinamese Journalists, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app and email. Police arrested Nazarali, who was taken before a public prosecutor and charged with several crimes, including defamation, slander, disturbing the public order, and insulting the police, which all carry prison sentences under the criminal code, according to the same sources.

The charges stem from a complaint filed by two high-ranking police officers, including the regional commander, after Nazarali broadcast a report for Actionnieuws Suriname, a news outlet that publishes on Facebook, from outside police headquarters alleging corruption and incompetence in the Nickerie police force, according to the sources.

Nazarali was released on May 5, but the investigation against him continues, according to news reports and Thomas.

“The criminal lawsuit filed by two police officers against journalist Mones Nazarali for reporting on allegations of misconduct by the police force seeks to intimate him and chill any sensitive reporting on the institution,” said CPJ Latin America and the Caribbean Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “The time for Suriname to scrap all of its criminal insult laws from the books is long overdue, and this incident underlines the urgency to do so.”

In his reporting, Nazarali referred to several allegations of police corruption and incompetence, alleging that authorities were targeting poor people instead of going after criminals and dangerous individuals, and that officers were “free shopping” at several supermarkets in the area, according to news reports.

CPJ reached out to the Suriname Police force using the email and phone number posted on its official website, but the call went unanswered, and upon sending the email, CPJ received an automated response saying, “Your message to [email protected] has been blocked.”