On 26 October, 20 MPs submitted a bill (draft law No. 72 of 2016) to abolish the military trial of citizens in line with the 2014 constitution which guarantees the right to a fair a trial, and maintains that military tribunals are “exceptional courts that specializes in examining military crimes”. The bill proposes an amendment to article 91 of the military code to ban trials of civilians for committing “outrages against the flag or the army, offenses against the dignity, reputation or morale of the army, or acts to undermine military discipline, obedience and due respect to superiors or criticizes the action of military hierarchy or the military officers, offending their dignity.” Members of the military institution will, however, continue to be prosecuted under article 91. The free speech group ARTICLE 19 has previously recommended the “immediate repeal” of article 91 of the military justice code, as it is a “disproportionate restriction upon freedom of expression”.
It is not clear how much time it will take the parliament to debate and approve the amendment, but as Tunisia continues to fight terror threats, some journalists, bloggers and commentators may be reluctant to cross certain lines related to the military and security institutions. The targeting of journalists and bloggers by military courts will only increase self-censorship on these and other critical issues of public interest.