Tunis and surrounds are back under curfew after three days of clashes between riot police and hundreds of demonstrators in Tunisia appeared to renew the 'Jasmine Revolution' - the rebellion that toppled the regime of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on January 23.
Protesters chanted “The people want a new revolution,” in central Tunis, throwing rocks and setting a fire in the middle of a main street towards nightfall.
The country's Interior and Defense ministries issued a joint statement Saturday to the state-run news agency setting the nightly curfew from 9:00 p.m. To 5:00 a.m. local time.
The statement cited “acts of violence and pillage, and attacks on public and private goods” that were carried out Friday and Saturday, according to the state-run TAP news agency.
Journalists Attacked - Again
Journalists covering the demonstrations were attacked Thursday and Friday, according to reports by news agencies. A total of 15 reporters and photographers working for local and foreign media, male and female, were beaten and verbally abused, and their equipment was confiscated.
Among those attacked were reporters from the Associated Press, AFP, EPA, La Presse, Al-Jazeera, Reuters, and El-Sahafa.
Police fired tear gas at protesters and used truncheons and sticks to break up the crowds in central Tunis that were calling for a “new revolution.”
“We're very angry,” the head of the Tunisian journalists' union, Neji Bgoughi, told AFP. “We achieved this revolution to have freedom of expression. It's as if the old regime was still in place.”
Media rights group Reporters Without Borders concurred, saying the violence was reminiscent of the Ben Ali regime. The group called on the transitional government to control its security forces.
The Interior Ministry apologized and vowed to investigate, but journalists called for sanctions against those responsible and for reporters to be present on the commission of inquiry.
Riots Ignited by Interior Minister
The riots apparently were ignited following comments by Interior Minister Fahat Rajhi, who was also serving as head of Tunisia's High Commission on Human Rights.
Rajhi, who was appointed Interior Minister less than two months ago, had warned in a video posted Thursday on Facebook the military might attempt a coup if Islamists win the elections in July.
The announcement, which took government officials by surprise, sparked fears among the populace that its newly won moves toward democracy were in jeopardy.
On Saturday, President Fouad Mebazaa also stripped Rajhi of his Commissioner's post as protesters gathered outside the Interior Ministry.
On the same day, Imad Trabelsi, a nephew of the former first lady, was convicted of drug use charges in a Tunis courtroom. Trabelsi was sentenced to two years in prison and fined 2,000 dinar (1,000 euros) according to Mokhtar Trifi, president of the Tunisian League of Human Rights.