Journalist sets himself ablaze in protest against harsh living conditions

A Tunisian journalist has died after setting himself on fire, officials said, in a protest over harsh living conditions that prompted overnight clashes with police in the country’s west.

Police fired tear gas at dozens of people who took to the streets Monday night in the city of Kasserine, 270 kilometres (165 miles) from the capital, setting tyres ablaze and blocking the main street.

Six members of the security forces were injured and nine protesters were detained, interior ministry spokesperson Sofiane al-Zaq said Tuesday.

By Tuesday morning, calm had returned to the city.

Abdel Razaq Zorgi, a 32-year-old journalist, died late Monday after setting himself on fire over unemployment and worsening economic conditions.

“For the sons of Kasserine who have no means of subsistence, today I start a revolution. I am going to set myself on fire,” Zorgi said in a video published before his death.

Both the ministry of interior and the National Union of Tunisian Journalists confirmed his death.

The journalists’ union said he died protesting “difficult social conditions…and a lack of hope”, and that it was considering organising a general strike in the media sector.

It was the self-immolation of a street vendor in Tunisia in late 2010 in protest at police harassment that sparked Tunisia’s revolution and the Arab Spring uprisings across the rest of the region the next year.

Kasserine was one of the first cities to rise up after the vendor’s death, in protests that saw police kill demonstrators.

The unrest quickly spread across the country and led to the overthrow of long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Despite the country’s democratic transition after Ben Ali’s ouster and a recent return to economic growth, Tunisian authorities are still struggling to improve poor living conditions.

Inflation fuelled by the devaluation of the Tunisian dinar and persistent unemployment sparked protests across the country last January.

(AFP)

 

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