Tanzania’s government ordered the release of a popular rapper on Monday, jailed over his song lyrics, insisting that President John Magufuli loves his music but advising him to include verses on tax fraud and drug use.
Emmanuel Elibariki, better known as Ney wa Mitego, was arrested Sunday over a song allegedly insulting the president, who is showing growing signs of authoritarianism.
But on Monday police said Elibariki had been freed on government orders.
“Yes, he is free on bail,” Dar es Salaam police chief Simon Sirro told the local Mwananchi newspaper.
“Thanks to all those who have stood up, to support me, to support rights,” the rapper said after his release.
Elibariki is known for his political lyrics and his videos garner hundreds of thousands of YouTube views.
In a song released last week, he raps in Swahili: “Who are you now? Don’t you want to listen to advice? Don’t you want criticism?”
The song is widely seen as being aimed at Magufuli who swept to power as a no-nonsense, corruption-busting man of the people, but has since shown little patience for dissent or criticism.
Newly-installed information minister Harrison Mwakyembe said Magufuli had ordered the rapper’s release and was in fact a fan of the song.
“This song, the president likes it very much and he asks that Nay wa Mitego be released and continue his activities,” Mwakyembe said.
“But there is a need to improve the song by adding those guilty of tax fraud and drug users,” the minister advised.
Magufuli also ordered the lifting of a radio and television ban on the song, imposed ahead of the rapper’s arrest on Sunday.
Since his October 2015 election Magufuli has shut down newspapers, banned opposition rallies, switched off live broadcasts of parliamentary sessions and used a draconian “cybercrimes” law to jail critics.
Last week he issued his latest warning to the media after disapproving of the coverage of an incident involving one of his political allies.
“I want to tell media owners to be careful and watch it. If you think you have freedom… not to that extent,” he said.