The publisher of a newsmagazine in Suriname went on trial for allegedly damaging the reputation of a former public works minister with articles that exposed apparent corruption. Ramon Abrahams demanded over $300,000 in damages and a printed retraction.
Abrahams was dismissed as public works minister in July by the South American country’s president, who did not provide an explanation. Parbode’s report in August revealed evidence that in the nearly three years of his ministry, Abrahams became wealthy by signing contracts with prices higher than the actual cost, keeping the extra money for himself.
Shortly after the publication, Abraham’s lawyer alleged that the article damaged his client’s reputation and exposed questionable journalism, with statements from anonymous sources. The lawyer asked the magazine to retract the allegations in its next edition.
The editor in chief of the newsmagazine said the story was journalistically sound and refused the request. The magazine said the story was based on interviews with architects, businessmen and people from Abraham’s political party.
Parbode’s Publisher Jaap Hoogendam said in an interview with the International Press Institute that the sources remained anonymous due to the sensitivity of their positions and that the magazine has proof to back up the story.
Reporters Without Borders supported the publisher and said the magazine could be forced to close if the court orders the payment of damages. “Instead of using his right to have his response published in Parbode, Abrahams is demanding a correction, that is to say, he is insisting that the magazine’s reporters retract what they wrote,” the organization said. “This would be tantamount to self-censorship. As a public figure, the former minister should expect to be criticized.”
By Julia Lugon.