Tunisia: Prosecution of journalists is a serious violation of press freedom

Tunisia: Prosecution of journalists is a serious violation of press freedom - Media

Salah Attia will face a military trial following comments he made about Tunisia's president

ARTICLE 19 condemns the continuous prosecution of journalists before military courts in freedom of expression and press-related cases and reiterates its call for authorities to respect the provisions of Decree-law No. 115 regarding freedom of the press, printing and publishing.[mfn]For more details on this issue, see: https://www.article19.org/resources/tunisia-military-justice-threatens-freedom-of-expression/[/mfn] The practice of trying journalists in military courts is a clear violation of free expression standards.

On 13 June 2022, an investigating judge at Tunis First Instance Permanent Military court issued a warrant for the arrest of journalist Salah Attia after a broadcast on Al Jazeera TV on Friday, 10 June, in which Attia stated that the President of the Republic Kais Saied officially requested the army to intervene against the Labor Union by besieging its headquarters, shutting it down by force and placing some of its leaders under military house arrest, a report that was denied by the Tunisian General Labor Union in an official statement on 11 June 2022.

Salah Attia was arrested on Saturday 11 June. It followed, on the same day, the Military Prosecutor’s office launch of an investigation into his statement to Al Jazeera, based on the crimes of ‘assault intended to force the population to attack each other with weapons and to stir up commotion, murder and robbery in Tunisian territory (Art 72. of the Penal Code)’, ‘attributing illegal matters to a public official without providing evidence (Art 128. of the Penal Code)’, ‘harming the dignity and reputation of the national army’, (Art 91. of the Code of Military Justice) and ‘using public communication networks to insult or disturb others (Art 86. of the Telecommunications Code)’.

ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the routine prosecution of journalists before military courts in cases that are within the jurisdiction of the judiciary. This poses a threat to both freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial, especially in view of  the frequency of this practice, which has affected journalists,  bloggers, and politicians including Amer Ayad[mfn]See: https://www.article19.org/ar/resources/tunisia-freedom-of-expression-violations-against-journalists-and-politicians/ [/mfn], Amina Mansour[mfn]See: https://www.article19.org/resources/tunisian-activist-jailed-facebook-posts/ [/mfn] and Yassin Ayari[mfn]See: https://www.article19.org/resources/tunisia-military-justice-threatens-freedom-of-expression/ [/mfn].

ARTICLE 19 renews its call for the Tunisian judiciary to exclude the Telecommunications Code, the Penal Code, The Code of Military Pleadings and Penalties when pursuing journalists, bloggers and politicians who express their opinions and positions on issues, and refer only to the provisions of Decree-law No. 115 related to freedom of the press, printing and publishing.