Joseph Mbilinyi takes Tanzania to court over rap song ban

Joseph Mbilinyi was sentenced to five months in jail for allegedly defaming the president. Image copyright JOSEPH MBILINYI
Image caption Joseph Mbilinyi was sentenced to five months in jail for allegedly defaming the president.

Tanzanian MP Joseph Mbilinyi says he will sue the government for banning his rap song about the state of prisons.

Basata, the Kiswahili acronym for the country's arts council, banned the song for using words that "incite public violence".

The song was leaked after the opposition MP, popularly known as MC Sugu, was jailed for allegedly defaming President John Magufuli.

The ban comes amid complaints about restrictions to freedom of expression.

Basata said in a press statement that the song, which it dubbed #219, had generated numerous complaints from the public and "brings into jeopardy the reputation of the arts industry in composing songs".

"How can the song be a threat?" Mr Mbilinyi, who was released from jail in May, asked the BBC. "I was merely talking about real experience in what goes on in prison, and urging the authorities to rectify the situation."

The opposition Chadema party MP has asked his lawyers to begin the process of taking Basata to court "to ensure that the agency desists from interfering, censuring and destroying the works of artists," Mr Mbilinyi said.

Tanzanian authorities banned 13 local songs deemed obscene in March after receiving a list from Basata.

Image caption Diamond Platnumz apologised for a video clip on Instagram of himself kissing a woman

President Magufuli, nicknamed "the Bulldozer", has been accused by detractors of becoming increasingly authoritarian - a charge he denies.

Since he came to power in 2015, several newspapers have been shut down and one of Africa's top musicians was questioned for posting a video clip considered indecent by Tanzanian authorities.

Award-winning musician Diamond Platnumz posted a video clip of himself playfully kissing a woman on Instagram, which apparently fell foul of the new Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations.

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