Protests over unemployment and other economic demands in Tunisia continued Thursday despite tight security measures the government has implemented in the last two days.
The hot spot was in the capital, Tunis, where hundreds of people — mostly youth and lawyers — gathered in Bab El-Jazeera, a downtown area to protest a recent speech by President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali.
News circulated on internet social networks indicated that Bab El-Jazeera area was surrounded by Tunisian security forces to prevent people entering the area and joining the activists. which led to the demonstration being cancelled.
The protests began in the town of Sidi Bouzid on 17 December in response to the attempted suicide of Mohammed Bouazizi, an unemployed graduate.
In Sfakes city eleven protesters were arrested Thursday during a demonstration, according to several Tunisian bloggers on Facebook.
The protesters were joined by a group of lawyers who pledged to “reveal government human rights violations" including "shooting protesters in some places”.
Some blogs reported that a protester called Shawqy Hedar was shot dead today in Sidi Bouzid by the police, but there is no official confirmation at the time of writing.
Other reports on Facebook said that Sidi Bouzid was calm Thursday after local government officials promised to pay electricity and water bills for all residents for the coming three months on the condition that they be filmed by Tunisian TV Channel 7 thanking President Ben Ali.
The government was successful in banning demonstrations in Kariwan and Qabes. Simultaneously, authorities continued a ban on international media reporting the protests.
Information circulating on the micro-blogging site Twitter indicated that the government started to take new measures to prevent activists from using social network websites. The measures include cutting mobile internet services during the day, to stop activists from publishing updated information on the demonstrations.
Meanwhile, Ben Ali supporters used protesters' Facebook pages to post information and videos from the state media promoting the Tunisian government's efforts to improve the economy via various programmes.
One of the videos aired by Tunisia state television showing President Ben Ali hosting Mohammed Bouazizi’s dad in his office and listening to his son's demands. To restore clam, Ben Ali, visited Bouazizi — who attempted suicide — in hospital.
Tunisian official media aired interviews with Bouazizi’s family members thanking Ben Ali for his generosity and for covering all his treatment costs.
Bouazizi, who is being treated in the Traumatology Centre for severe burns after setting himself on fire in the town of Ben Arous, is shown in the picture with his entire body covered in bandages.
In a televised address, Ben Ali promised the youth more jobs while vowing to punish protesters. "The law will be applied in all firmness," Ben Ali warned, adding that its enforcement would be targeted at "a minority of extremists and mercenaries who resort to violence and disorder".
Ben Ali also fired Information Minister Oussama Romdhani.