Protests in Tunisia after journalist sets himself on fire

Another protest is planned on Tuesday in the capital Tunis

University professors and teachers take part in a protest to demand higher wages in Tunis, Tunisia December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
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The death of a Tunisian journalist who set himself on fire to protest economic problems in the North African nation has prompted a protest that led to clashes with police.

Abdel Razaq Zorgui, a 32-year-old reporter for a private television station in the struggling provincial city of Kasserine, posted a video online before his self-immolation describing his desperation and calling for revolt. He expressed frustration at unemployment and unfulfilled promises of Tunisia's 2011 Arab Spring revolution.

"For the sons of Kasserine who have no means of subsistence, today I start a revolution," he said in the video.

"In 20 minutes, I am going to set myself on fire, maybe after that the state will take some notice of Kasserine."

Authorities said Zorgui died of his injuries Monday soon after being taken to the hospital.

The National Union of Tunisian Journalists said Zorgui died protesting "difficult social conditions...and a lack of hope", and that it was considering organising a general strike in the media sector.

His actions prompted a protest Monday night in Kasserine that degenerated into violence, with police firing tear gas to disperse protesters who blocked roads and threw stones. Six members of the security forces were injured and nine protesters were detained, Interior Ministry spokesman Sofiane Zaag said on Tuesday.

After a brief morning calm, protesters were back on the streets of Kasserine in the afternoon after Zorgi's funeral.

They clashed with police outside the governor's office, an AFP correspondent said.

Police again fired tear gas at the protesters to disperse them.

Authorities also deployed reinforcements on the main streets of Kasserine, 270 kilometres (165 miles) from the capital Tunis.

Zorgui's actions mirrored those of 26-year-old street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation in December 2010 ignited the Arab uprisings which toppled a number of long-standing leaders across the Middle East. Angered by police corruption in his hometown of Sidi Bouzid, Bouazizi set himself alight outside the governor's office in an act that seized the attention of the nation and the world.

Kasserine was one of the first cities to take to the streets after Bouazizi's death, in protests that saw police kill demonstrators.

As unrest spread, Tunisia’s autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was forced to step down after 23 years in power.

Despite the country transitioning to a democratic system, economic growth has remained slow, with newfound rights such as free speech yet to be matched by a major increase in jobs for frustrated young people.


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