Newspaper refuses to remove published photo of Suriname president
PARAMARIBO, Suriname (CMC) — The De Ware Tijd newspaper says it will not comply with a demand by President Chandrikapersad Santokhi to remove from its website the photo on the cover of a book by a Dutch entrepreneur, Gerard van den Bergh, alleging corruption at the highest level in Suriname.
Santokhi, through his attorney Gerold Sewcharan, has already sent a writ to the publisher and a bookstore demanding that the book titled Corruption at the Highest Level be immediately withdrawn from the market.
In the book the Dutch businessman discusses doing business in the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community country. The cover of the book features a photo of President Santokhi; Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Minister Parmanand Sewdien; and entrepreneur Vijay Kirpalani.
In refusing to remove the photo from its website the newspaper said it views Santokhi’s demand as being tantamount to censorship.
Santokhi, through the bailiff’s writ, has ordered the publisher of the newspaper to “immediately remove the image from its newspaper and from
DWT-online, to keep it removed, and not to distribute or help distribute it in any way”.
Other local and foreign media that have also published the image have so far not received a notice to remove the photo.
“We see nothing wrong with publishing the cover of the book. We have not commented on the content of what was written or on any allegations against the head of state. We see this far-reaching step as an attempt at censorship. The photo remains, and legally the matter will also be investigated by us,” said Terence Oosterwolde, deputy editor of the newspaper.
Last Thursday, Sewcharan ordered Vaco bookstore to withdraw the book from sale and to stop advertising it, with Santokhi saying that he did not give permission for the use of the photo and that it was a violation of his right to the protection of his moral integrity, good name and honour, as well as his reputation as president.
He argued that this is also harmful to Suriname’s image, and that the photo and the contents of the book together draw a link between the president and corruption.
The bookstore has now stopped selling the book. However, its digital version is currently going viral and is being widely distributed on social media.
Santokhi is also claiming that the publication of the photo constitutes an infringement of the fundamental rights of the president as enshrined in the constitution.
According to Santokhi, the violations amount to defamation, slander, libel and insult — actions that are legally punishable in Suriname.
“The infringement also constitutes an unlawful act for which DWT Publishing NV is jointly and severally liable for any resulting damage,” Santokhi said.
In his book Van den Bergh claims that the success of doing business in Suriname depends not only on a personal network, but also on political protection.
He also claims, among other allegations, that the laws and regulations in Suriname are subordinate to the whims of politicians.
In his writ, Sewcharan is asking the court to approve the withdrawal of the book from the local market and that failure to do so would lead to legal proceedings.