Uganda plans to tax social media users despite objections from press freedom campaigners

Uganda’s government is looking to tax social media users despite the disapproval of  press freedom campaigners.  The government plans to propose a tax of 100 shillings ($0.03) per day for those on social media platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp.

According to the parliament’s website “The levy would apply to users of services including WhatsApp platforms and Facebook video calls.” The plan, however, still awaits approval from the Kampala-based national assembly.

Report has it that Information and Communications Technology Minister Frank Tumwebaze on April 10 said the tax proposal is for “value added services” such as Skype and WhatsApp calls, while Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director of the Uganda Communications Commission, via a phone call on Friday noted that the tax will be on social-media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.

Though there is no laid down procedure on how social media users would be monitored and how charges will be imposed and paid, President Yoweri Museveni nevertheless informed the Finance Ministry in March that the tax policy on social media could yield between 400 billion to 1.4 trillion shillings per year.

The Ugandan government has been seeking for means to generate more revenue amid its struggles to reach its 2020 target of middle-income status that would require per capita income of between $1,045 and $12,736. The planning authority in February, economic targets is being hampered by interruption with plans to commence oil production in Western Uganda, Bloomberg reported.

However, press freedom campaigners are not having any of it as they demand that the Uganda government give clarity on what the tax entails. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which criticized Ugandan authorities for blocking social media during the country’s disputed 2016 elections, also stated that the proposed taxes “have the potential to curtail freedom of expression and access to information.”