18 held as protests spread in Tunisia after journalist sets himself on fire

Tunisian authorities have arrested some 18 protesters since Monday night after the death of a journalist who set himself on fire in Kasserine province to protest against economic problems facing the nation.

Thirteen protesters were arrested in Kasserine as violence erupted after Zorgui died of burn injuries in a hospital. Five others were rounded up in Tebourba near capital Tunis.

Before setting himself afire, Zorgui posted a video online expressing his anger and frustration over unemployment, corruption and unfulfilled promises of Tunisia’s 2011 Arab Spring revolution. He called for a new uprising against the incumbent government.

Zorgui ended the video by saying he is starting a revolution by setting himself on fire for the people of Kasserine who cannot make ends meet.

After Zorgui’s self-immolation, Kasserine witnessed violent protests on Monday night. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters and military guarded state buildings.

In Tunis, dozens of people gathered in streets and chanted slogans against the regime.

A suspect was arrested for failure to save the journalist before he set himself on fire.

The Tunisian National Journalists’ Union said the state’s failure to curb corruption was one of the reasons that drove Zorgui to suicide.

Tunisian freelance journalists like Zorgui have no legal protection and their pay is very low.

Zorgui’s call for revolt before his death was significant as a similar self-immolation by a street vendor Mohamed Bouaziz led to nationwide protests which overthrew authoritarian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

That revolt for freedom also ushered in democracy for Tunisia and inspired similar movements across the Arab world.