By Andrew Irumba
Uganda’s Telecommunication companies have on wed.announced that starting 1st July 2018 will be blocking usage of social media sites to customers in a bid to implement a new taxi, social media tax which was recently introduced by Government.
The ministry of finance, working on President Yoweri Museveni’s directive, introduced a Shs200 daily excise duty on usage of social media sites, also known as OTT sites. These include among others WhatsApp, Facebook,twitter and instagram.
In a joint statement on Wed.morning, Telecom companies, MTN, Airtel and Africell announced that the social media platforms “would be blocked effective July 1st 2018, and access would only be granted upon payment of the tax by the customer”. Read part of the statement.
Customers, according to the statement will be able to pay the tax using MTN mobile money and Airtel Money. Africell customers will use both MTN and Airtel Money to pay the tax since they are yet to have mobile money services.
The Companies announced in the statement, that customers will need to dial 185*2*5# (for Airtel)and 165*2*5# (for MTN)to make the payment.
“The taxes can only be paid daily (Shs 200), weekly (Shs 1400) or monthly (Shs 6000) to access internet,the companies announced.
“Access will be granted for a calendar day until 12am, that is, until midnight if the customer has paid for one day”.
This tax has been condemned by rights advocates as a direct affront on Ugandans’ right to free communication.
But President Museveni in defence of the new tax said Ugandans spend a lot of time gossiping on these platforms.
Ironically, the president recently urged Ugandans to make use of the same platforms to fight crime through vigilance.
The Social Media tax is expected to have far-reaching consequences for the youth who make up the majority of internet users in Uganda. This demographic spends more time on social media using platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, among others.