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Uganda's govt to review controversial social media tax law

Uganda's govt to review controversial social media tax law

Following mounting pressure, the Ugandan government has announced that it will review the controversial social media and mobile money tax law.

The controversial law has sparked protest in Kampala. On Wednesday this week, locals marching to parliament (led by opposition lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi) clashed with police.

The law is also being challenged in court by a tech company Cyber Law Initiative managed by Executive Director Daniel Bill Opio.

In its current form, the law requires that all SIM cards have to be registered for mobile money services, and as of July 2018, access to social media are blocked unless users pay Sh200 (US$0.05) daily tax and the 1% tax from whoever deposits, receives, pays and withdraws money using mobile money.

Customers have an option to pay in advance-a weekly amount of Sh1, 400 and a monthly amount of Sh6, 000.

Cyber Law Initiative believes the tax infringes on people's right to freely communicate and that government is breaching the principles of net neutrality.

As a result of public outcry, Prime Minister Ruhakana Ruganda confirmed in parliament that President Yoweri Museveni has called for further discussion on the law.

Ruganda added, "We are amending the bill after taking into consideration public concerns. The new bill will be presented to parliament on July 19."

While it is unclear as to what specific changes will be made or what the new Bill is likely to feature, there is certainty that the tax itself will not be scrapped entirely – only that some concession will be made in terms of daily fees.

The minister of Finance David Bahati said the new taxes are necessary to help the government raise enough revenue to pay off the country's growing national debt.

According to a report by the Parliamentary Committee on National Economy released in April 2018, the country's debt was said to be at US$12 billion, a figure confirmed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Media reports claim the country has 24 million mobile phone users and 17 million internet users.

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