Activists in Uganda denounce tax on social media users

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The proposed excise duty law, which takes effect from July 1, 2018, also imposes 1 percent levy on the mobile money transactions, which includes cash deposits and withdrawals using a mobile phone aimed at growing domestic budget financing.

Uganda has 23,529,290 mobile phone subscribers, according to the recent report of the Ugandan Communications Commission.

The lawmakers on Wednesday passed the bill two months after President Yoweri Museveni in March announced that the government was planning to introduce taxes on social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn, and Viber, on alleged grounds that people were using them mainly for gossip.

KAMPALA, June 1 (Xinhua) -- Civil society organizations and rights activists on Friday criticized Uganda's legislators for passing a controversial bill that imposes a daily tax on social media users in the country.

"The bill originated from the executive which runs government. Parliament has passed it basing on the reasons the executive advanced in order to run government," said Obore.

Livingstone Sewanyana, the executive director of Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, told Xinhua in an interview that the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill 2018, which imposes a mandatory daily tax of 50 shillings (0.05 U.S. dollars) for social media users is unwarranted and unnecessary on tax payers.

Chris Obore, director of communications and public affairs at Uganda's Parliament, told Xinhua that the bill was passed to enable the government to raise revenues to offer social services.

"It is a double tax since we pay for airtime. Such a tax should be rejected. The bill once passed into law will be subjected to court litigation to determine its constitutionality," he said.

"It is a restriction on people's individual freedom to express themselves and communicate freely since it makes access costly and prohibitive," said Sewanyana.