Zambia: Release medical doctor jailed for ‘insulting the president’ immediately and unconditionally

Amnesty International has called for the immediate and unconditional release of Kwalela Kafunya, a medical doctor who is entering his second year in prison in Zambia on absurd charges of “insulting the president”.

Dr Kwalela Kafunya has committed no crime yet he has not set foot outside of prison for more than a year
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa

Kwalela Kafunya, who has been in detention since 8 May 2017, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment on 10 January 2018 after a grossly unfair trial. His arrest followed allegations that he had made derogatory comments about the president on Facebook.

“Dr Kwalela Kafunya has committed no crime yet he has not set foot outside of prison for more than a year. Seven years in jail for “insulting the president” is an outrageous sentence,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

“The Zambian authorities are using social media as a tool to crack down on freedom of expression. Kwalela Kafunya’s plight is sadly typical of the growing criminalization of dissent in Zambia. He must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Kwalela Kafunya’s trial was compromised by a number of failings. The police investigation into his case was incomplete and still ongoing during the trial proceedings, while the presence in court of officials from the President’s Office and supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front may have applied undue pressure on the presiding magistrate.

Seven years in jail for “insulting the president” is an outrageous sentence
Deprose Muchena

Kwalela Kafunya was accused of creating a false Facebook account lampooning President Lungu, posting disturbing remarks and insults, and digitally altering the president’s image.

His sentence was broken down into three parts. He was given a two-year sentence for “defamation”, another two years for “giving false information to a public officer” and three years for “written threat to murder”.

Throughout the trial Kwalela Kafunya maintained that he has never operated a false Facebook account or published anything that could be considered defamatory against President Lungu.