Following questioning by police today, the Zambian musician Chama Fumba, who performs under the title of Pilato, was arrested and denied bail in relation to a controversial song which some say may defame President Edgar Lungu.
The song in question is a remix of the legendary Nashil Pischen Kazembe’s Aphiri Anabwela, but featuring Pilato’s lyrics which call President Lungu “a drunk,” among several other insults.
Pilato arrived at the Lusaka Central Police in the company of lawyers and sympathisers and was immediately ushered into the interogation room where he was arrested and charged.
Police further refused to release the musician on police bond, saying they needed to get instructions from the prosecutions authority.
Freedom of speech advocates have denounced the arrest of the musician.
According to the Media Institute of Southern Africa, “Freedom of Expression is a fundamental right to be enjoyed by all citizens regardless of their background and political orientation as provided for under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which Zambia ratified.”
The MISA statement continues: “It must be stated, also, that Freedom of Expression is a hallmark of Democracy as its unfettered enjoyment contributes to functional democracy that encourages citizen participation for good governance and accountability. Individuals should not be criminalised for merely expressing themselves in a bid to participate in the governance of the country as tax payers.”
“It is for this reason that MISA Zambia has continued to advocate for the repeal or amendment of certain sections of the penal code that deride or impede the enjoyment of freedom of expression. These include provisions in Section 69 on Defamation of the President, Section 53 on Prohibited Publications, section 60 on Seditious Practices among other laws such as the Public Order Act. These legal provisions have been used on several occasions by government functionaries to suppress dissenting views and there by oppress individuals perceived to be opposed to the party in power.”
Zambia has a history of conflicts between musicians and politicians – the singer Petersen similarly came under government pressure by the late President Michael Sata for his popular song, “Bufi.”