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Protest against social media tax broken up with teargas

Popular faces from diverse spheres of influence in the country protest the daily fee of 200 shillings for social media use and 0.5 per cent excise duty on mobile money transactions on Wednesday in Kampala. PHOTO CREDIT: Nicholas Bamulanzeki

Police made arrests and cleared streets of demonstrators against Social Media Tax in Kampala on Wednesday.

The “peaceful demonstration” attracted activists who include journalists, opposition legislators, artists and civil society officials who earlier urged the public to come into the capital protesting the daily fee of 200 shillings  for social media use and 0.5 per cent excise duty on mobile money transactions.

 

The Observer News Paper says that Kyadondo East Member of Parliament Robert Kyagulanyi otherwise known as, Bobi Wine and at least three (3) others including journalist Raymond Mujuni were arrested by police for participating in the demo.

“We are dismayed by the use of brute force, teargas and live ammunition to disperse a protest that fell well within all the laws of Uganda. Our legal teams are actively pursuing the release of two of the arrested protestors.” Journalist Raymond Mujuni posted on Twitter.

Earlier speaking to Journalists, Emilian Kayima, police spokesperson claimed that the organisers of the demonstration did not seek police permission as required by law.

“No one has bothered to write to us as the law (public order and management act) so demands. What do you do to people that break the law? Apprehend them,” Kayima said.

 

Following a directive by Uganda Communications Commission, Telecom companies on July 1 started enforcing the controversial excise duty charge on Over-The-Top services dubbed ‘social media tax’ and one per cent levy on mobile money transactions.

The move drew mixed reactions from citizens who said the underlying objective in the passing of this law is to among others “stifle free expression rights of millions of Ugandans who increasingly depend on online tools to communicate.”

Others urged that the tax is “un fair” to low income earners in the country.

“The tax is not coming in place to deliver a service but to control and deter people from expressing themselves especially on civic and political matters,” Moses Magoola, Programme Manager atHuman Rights Network for Journalists in Uganda (HRNJ-U) said. “The measure is to disable citizen mobilization and communication on matters of national importance.”

President Museveni later issued a statement saying the tax on mobile money was 0.5 per cent – and not 1 per cent as the Finance Ministry had announced.

The government said it imposed the tax to increase domestic budget financing instead of depending on foreign aid which is becoming expensive.

By Paul W Dennis.

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