Uganda slaps tax on social media users to curb ‘gossip’

Uganda- Ugandan users of Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype and other social media will from July have to pay a daily tax, according to a new law which rights activists said on Thursday was a bid to stifle free speech.

Late on Wednesday Uganda’s parliament passed a law imposing a tax of tax of 200 shillings ($0.05) a day on users of so-called “over the top” services which publish content bypassing traditional distributors.

However the new law does not spell out how the tax will be applied and collected in practice.

Finance Minister David Bahati said the aim of the legislation was only to raise revenue for public services.

But President Yoweri Museveni wrote to the finance ministry in March urging them to introduce the tax as a way to deal with the consequences of online “gossip”.

One of many activist and journalist Lydia Namubiru said that Museveni sees online communication as a threat to his 32-year rule.

Speaking to AFP he said, “The president… said it was to stop young people from gossiping but what’s ironic aabout that statement is that it comes after Bobi Wine became a member of parliament through an online campaign,” Bobi Wine is a musician turned opposition politician who has become hugely popular with Uganda’s frustrated youth.

“It’s actually political speech and online organising which has real life implications for him and his power. The overarching intention is to stifle free speech, especially now there is evidence that online organisation works.”

Even though the daily levy is small, Namubiru thinks it will be effective in curtailing social media use, as most Ugandans buy data in small bundles of 500-1 000 shillings.

Photo Credit- Yahoo

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