STATE OF THE NET UGANDA



The Ugandan Parliament passed the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill which is social media tax legislation that is will take effect on 1st July.



This means that social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp will be subject to a daily tax. There will be also be a levy on mobile money services.mobile phone subscriber using platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook 200 Ugandan shillings per day.

In the 2016 presidential election in Uganda the Ugandan authorities blocked access to social media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp claiming that the sites would be used by the opposition to organize and mobilize people for protests. At this time mobile money services were also affected. Only about 5 million of around 42 million Ugandans have access to the banking sector leaving the rest to mobile money services.



The government claimed that it passed the legislation in order to raise revenue so as to offset the huge Ugandan national debt. Activists, lawyers and the people of Uganda have however argued that this is a move to further curtail the already existing freedom of expression.President Yoweri Museveni had pushed for the changes in a letter to the cabinet, arguing that social media encouraged gossip.
Rosebell Kagumire, a human rights activist and blogger said,It’s part of a wider attempt to curtail freedoms of expression.
With the already exorbitant Internet prices in the region, this move by the government will only keep the offline in continued digital darkness.

This move is without a doubt an attack on the freedom of speech of the Ugandan people which is clearly protected by their constitution in Article 29 (1)a of the Ugandan Constitution as well as other International and regional legal instruments that Uganda is a party to.

Article 29(1)a, of the Ugandan constitution provides that, everyone shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and other media.
Other East African countries have also passed controversial laws regarding the cyberspace.On November 29, the Tanzanian government won judicial proceedings against opponents of new regulations that require bloggers to pay a fee and disclose their financiers.The Kenyan government also passed, a new law on computer misuse and cybercrimes that came into force on May 30th.

Digital Grassroots calling to the government of Uganda to withdraw this law that only seeks to further abuse the digital rights of its citizens.


#KeepTheNetFree




By Joy Wathagi Ndungu
Digital Grassroots

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