A law imposing a tax on people using mobile social media networks in an attempt to increase revenue have on Thursday been passed by Ugandan Parliament but rights groups say the levy is actually aimed at silencing dissent.
A minimal tax of at 200 Ugandan shillings (five cents) a day for users of WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook adds up to about 18 dollars a year – not a small amount of money in the impoverished East African country.
“As a government, we thought it would be good to impose taxes on some aspects of the social media,”
“government is installing infrastructure like WiFi in areas around the country and it will not do this without our contribution through taxes.” Shaban Bantariza, deputy government spokesman told dpa Thursday, the day after parliament passed the law.
24 millions Ugandans – about half the population – have access to the internet, according to the Uganda Communications Commission, mostly through mobile phones. it is however not certain how the government intend to implement this law.
Human rights groups have expressed concern over the move, which reportedly came about after long-time leader Yoweri Museveni said social media helped spread gossip.
“This tax is detrimental to the enjoyment of freedom of expression,”
“Its prohibitive. It shows the repressive nature of the state which is amassing as much revenue as it can to its advantage,” said Livingstone Sewannyana, director of Uganda’s Foundation for Human Rights Initiative.