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Africa

Tunisian protesters clash with police after death of journalist Abdel Razaq Zorgi, who set himself on fire

  • Journalists’ union said Abdel Razaq Zorgi died protesting ‘difficult social conditions and a lack of hope’ and it was considering organising a media strike
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 December, 2018, 10:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 December, 2018, 3:36am

A Tunisian journalist has died after setting himself on fire, officials said, in a protest against 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, 270km (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 spokesman Sofiane al-Zaq said on Tuesday.

By Tuesday morning, calm had returned to the city.

Abdel Razaq Zorgi, a 32-year-old journalist, died late on 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 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 are said to have sparked Tunisia’s revolution and the so-called 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 removal from power 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.