Ugandans Protest, Petition Court Over social Media Tax
By. Damba Rogers
FIVE concerned citizens and a Techinology Company ; Cyber law Initiative have petitioned the Constitutional court seeking to nullify the new social media tax of 200shs per day which is to be paid by all internet users.
The new tax is known as Over the Top.(OTT) .
The Petitioners led by one Daniel Opio have sued the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) accusing it of giving an enabling environment for (URA) to collect this tax since yesterday, and the AG whom he wants to explain why Government does not offer free internet services to its citizens.
The group claims the tax is politically motivated since it was passed with no meaningful public participation, it hinders freedom of speech, economic growth , innovation and will have a negative impact on online media.
The petitioners also contend that the new tax if not scrapped, will curtail business and affect job seekers there by infringing on the economic rights of citizens.
However, the talk by Ugandans about the effecting of both mobile money and social media tax continue to escalate as the legislators themselves who participated in passing it give mixed reactions over it.
Government on 1st July put in action the charging of 1% from mobile money transactions and payment of 200/= daily by social media users, the costs that have not happily been welcomed by the masses.
The Nakaseke south MP Paul Lutamaguzi Semakula says Ugandans should bear with these charges since they failed to vigorously fight it during its inception. He says with the kind of legislators who are compromised by government, there is no way the public could be helped once the taxes where put to vote in Parliament that has majority MPs that subscribe to the rulling government.
Agnes Kunihira who represents workers views in the August house says government needs to go back on the drawing board and revise these taxes because they are to greatly affect the economy as the money in circulation is going to be limited.
She adds that the six thousand charged a month is such huge money that cannot be affordable by common Ugandans.
Terence Achia, MP for Bokora County in Napak district advises that this is the time for Ugandans who cannot afford this kind of tax to limit themselves to accessing the services for both social media and mobile money.
The Bunyole west MP James Waluswaka blames the telecom companies for not sensitizing the public on how they are meant to pay these new taxes hence leaving many in balance. He urges that Ugandans should embrace these taxes as it helps much to see the country get on course of self-reliance than keep depending on grants and loans.
Jack wamanga Wamai who represents Mbale Municipality is concerned that despite the many taxes that are made Ugandans to pay, it’s unfortunate that they never reflect t the needs in terms of services from government as expected by the public.
In a related development, Parliament Police arrested two Makerere University Students wearing FDC- T-shirts protesting against tax levied on the Social Media Tax.
The two were seen holding placards marching towards the Parliaments’ gate but they were rounded off and banged on the police patrol taken to Central Police Station.
The two were bringing a petition to the office of the speaker Rebecca Kadaga but they were intercepted along Parliament’s Avenue at the Main Gate entrance.
The youth were saying they are fighting for their rights to communication.
The youths were saying there was wrong to bring a petition at Parliament and Matching peacefully.
Yesterday 1st July government started collecting taxes through the Telecom companies where Millions of people in Uganda now have to pay to use popular social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter as new rules come into force.
In late May, the Ugandan parliament passed legislation that introduced a tax on the use of the so-called Over the Top (OTT) social media platforms offering voice and messaging services.
As of Sunday, users were required to pay 200 shillings a day to access any of the more than 60 such OTT platforms.
When the Parliaments’ spokesperson Chris Obore was contacted he said he was not aware of any arrests from the parliament’s police.
The Deputy Police Spokes person Kampala Metropolitan Luke Owesigire says he was not also ware of the arrests waiting for information from the commandant Police at Parliament.