Tunisia: Blogger arrested for criticising the president

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Tunisian authorities to immediately release blogger Salim Jebali and end the prosecution of civilians by military courts.

On 31 May 2021, the military justice arrested blogger Salim Jebali for publishing posts on his Facebook page criticizing the performance of the Presidency of the Republic and its High officials. He was charged with insulting the President of the Republic based on Article 91 of the Code of Military Procedures and Sanctions.

This arrest came after another decision by the military justice on 22 April 2021 against a member of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People, due to his expression of opinions regarding the President of the Republic and his accusation of financial crimes during the presidential elections in 2019.

ARTICLE 19 expresses its concern about the frequent prosecution of civilians before the military courts, which should have jurisdiction over lawsuits between military employees within the framework of their military work, without extending its jurisdiction to trying civilians because of their criticism and opposition to the President of the Republic as the head of the military institution. It should be noted in this regard that the Human Rights Committee affirmed in its General Comment No. 34 of 2011 that those in positions of authority, such as the President of the Republic or the Government, should expect a higher degree of criticism and must tolerate critics even harsh ones.

ARTICLE 19’s MENA Regional Director Saloua Ghazouani said “Tunisian authorities have to respect the cornerstones of the democratic transition by adopting policies that protect freedoms and avoid the use of laws enacted during the period of tyranny, especially since the laws adopted after the revolution, such as the Decree-law on freedom of the press, printing and publishing, are sufficient to be applied on all unlawful forms of expression before the judicial court.”

Salim Jebali must be immediately released. Tunisian authorities must take action to end the use of military courts to punish criticism of the President of the Republic, respecting the requirements of Decree-law No. 115 of 2011 related to freedom of the press, printing and publishing.