Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties
The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media. While there are no formal restrictions on the press, actions by government and nongovernment actors impeded the ability of independent media to conduct their work. The government does not have laws that facilitate access to public information; access to high-ranking government officials and public information can be cumbersome.
On December 14, journalist Jason Pinas of the daily newspaper De Ware Tijd was attacked and beaten by members of Vice President Ronnie Brunswijk’s security detail while taking photographs of the vice president and alleged supporters. Security agents also took Pinas’s phone. On December 16, President Santokhi asked the acting attorney general to investigate the matter. The Prosecutors’ Office stated on December 23 that it identified and questioned three suspects, including a police officer, who admitted to the attack and offered to apologize and pay for damages. Despite their admission of assault, the suspects were released. At year’s end the case was pending.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Media freely criticized the government on policy issues and for what it claimed was restricted access to the government and governmental events. Government representatives contended there was no censorship, self-censorship, or content restriction. The political affiliations of individual news outlets had little apparent relationship to their criticism.
Libel/Slander Laws: The country’s criminal defamation laws carry harsh penalties for convictions, with prison terms between three months and seven years. The harshest penalty is for expressing public enmity, hatred, or contempt towards the government.
The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
f. Protection of Refugees
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has a system for providing protection to refugees. The country relied on UNHCR to assign refugee or asylum seeker status. Once status is confirmed, refugees or asylum seekers obtain residency permits under the alien legislation law. Those with a UNHCR certificate receive a special certificate from the Ministry of Labor to work.
An amendment in 2014 to the Citizenship Law automatically grants citizenship to persons born in the country if that person is not automatically eligible for the citizenship of one of the parents. Children born prior to this amendment to undocumented parents are not eligible to receive citizenship until they turn 18. These children faced problems in access to various services, including education. There were reported cases of stateless children or children of foreign parents facing problems registering in schools due to improper or incomplete residency documentation.