18 January 2011

Tunisia: French Photographer Dies From Injury Sustained On Day of Ben Ali's Departure

Reporters Without Borders has learned that Lucas Mebrouk Dolega, a young French photographer working for the European Press Photo Agency (EPA), died in Tunis' Rabta hospital from the head injury he sustained when the police are said to have deliberately fired a tear gas grenade at him on 14 January.

"Our thoughts are with his family, his partner, and his friends," Reporters Without Borders said. "The circumstances of this tragedy, including the possibility that that he was deliberately targeted by the police, must be properly investigated. We will support any legal action that the victim's family may decide to take."

The press freedom organisation added: "Dolega is the first French photographer to die in the line of duty since 1985, and the first foreign journalist to be killed in Tunisia."

Dolega, 32, had arrived in Tunisia on 13 January, the eve of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's ouster. He was covering protests outside the interior ministry in Tunis at around 2 p.m. on 14 January when he was struck on the head, between the left eye and temple, by a tear-gas grenade. Rushed to hospital, he underwent an operation in the evening.

"What happened is terrible," an EPA representative, Horacio Villalobos, told Reporters Without Borders. "I think it was a crime, a real murder."

"After 23 years of dictatorship, the restoration the rule of law in Tunisia requires not only the release of prisoners of conscience but also an investigation to establish the truth about all the crimes and abuses committed during the Jasmine Revolution," Reporters Without Borders added.

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