Uganda govt. clarifies social media tax not an attempt to gag free speech

  • July 6, 2018

Kampala, Uganda, July 6, 2018/- The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah has said that the proponents of the social media and mobile money taxes sought funds for development purposes.

Oulanyah who was speaking at the launch of the Uganda Law Society (ULS) Report on the State of the Rule of Law at the Kampala Serena Hotel, on July 3, 2018, said he was presenting the arguments that were made in the House as MPs considered the tax laws.

 “They argued that we have a shortfall in the budget and the social media tax sought to address this. They added that it would improve health care, infrastructure and other services,” Oulanyah who was the presiding officer then said.

Social media is tantamount to freedom of speech. It is a platform where every person, irrespective of their social and economic status, can voice their opinion, because it is free as is widely known. However, on 1 July 2018, the government of Uganda introduced a tax on all social media platforms and the transfer of funds through mobile money services.

According to the legislation, users are required to pay 200 shillings a day (about $0.05) to access any of the Over-The-Top (OTT) social media platforms offering voice and messaging services. This amounts to $1.5 a month, in a country where about 34% of its population lives on less than $1 per day (as per Uganda Poverty Assessment 2016).

Activists and a section of civil society organizations have already filed cases challenging the taxes, calling it an attempt to gag free speech in the country.

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