Social media is part of the new normal. Billions of people worldwide use it as their primary way of communicating with friends, family, and strangers. Now, the government of Uganda has decided to levy a daily 5-Cent tax on social media use. Many in Uganda view the new tax as a way to curb free speech. The leader of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni has complained that social media has led to gossip. In a letter written in March, Museveni encouraged the finance minister to raise funds “to cope with the consequences.”
The 5-Cent tax, or Shs200 (Ugandan Shillings), is added to the users mobile or data plan. The telecom companies in Uganda will be charging the tax and then paying the government on the other end, so users will not be paying the tax directly to the government.
Many Ugandans are “bitter” because the tax “was brought in bad faith,” said Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, a prominent human rights lawyer.
“The reasons for it were anti-people, were anti-social, not development-oriented,” he said Monday.
Amnesty International urged Ugandan authorities to scrap the tax, calling it “a clear attempt to undermine the right to freedom of expression” in the East African country.
“By making people pay for using these platforms, this tax will render these avenues of communication inaccessible for low-income earners, robbing many people of their right to freedom of expression, with a chilling effect on other human rights,” the group’s Joan Nyanyuki said in a statement Monday.
Through this tax, the government of Uganda is projected to make $100 million dollars (Shs400 billion) in revenue this year alone. This is because 17 million of the country’s 41 million residents are actively using social media and have access to the internet.
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