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Uganda's president defends social media tax

The WhatsApp icon seen on smartphone
AFP

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has defended the country's new social media tax, saying in a Facebook post that users had been enriching foreign-owned telecoms companies without benefiting the national economy.

He also said taxes on mobile money transactions would be charged at a rate of 0.5%, rather than the 1% initially announced. He said this was due "to a miscommunication", but Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper says it was lowered following public outcry.

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Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Google Hangout, YouTube, Skype and Yahoo Messenger are among the platforms identified by Uganda's revenue service for the daily tax of $0.05 (£0.04).

In his statement posted on Facebook, President Museveni called social media a "luxury by those who are enjoying themselves or those who are malicious...all the moral reasons are in favour of that tax".

He added that Ugandan social media users were "endlessly donating money to foreign telephone companies through chatting or even lying".

The new law has provoked outrage in Uganda.

Critics say it amounts to censorship and that the daily levy is too expensive for most Ugandans.

A group of Ugandan lawyers and journalists filed a petition against the new tax earlier this week, calling it unconstitutional and contrary to "individual rights and freedoms".

Anger as social media tax hits Uganda

Many Ugandans are turning to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to bypass a new social media tax that came into force on Sunday.

The new law imposes a 200 shilling [$0.05, £0.04] daily levy on people using internet messaging platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Viber.

President Yoweri Museveni had pushed for the changes, arguing that social media encouraged gossip. Critics say the law curtails freedom of expression.

A VPN gets around government censorship by redirecting your internet activity to a computer in a different country.

Now the head of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has said VPNs will be blocked, provoking plenty of responses online:

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It's not the first time the government has cracked down on social media users.

In 2016, social media platforms were blocked in Uganda on election day to stop people "telling lies", President Museveni said.

Uganda phone firms ready for WhatsApp tax

Three mobile network providers in Uganda have issued a joint statement to help their customers comply with a law taxing social media use, which comes into effect on 1 July.

Airtel, MTN and Africell have provided a daily, weekly and monthly pay structure and a guide on how to make payments.

MPs passed a law to impose the controversial tax in May after President Yoweri Museveni said social media encouraged gossip.

People using internet messaging platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber and Twitter will have to pay a daily levy of 200 shilling ($0.05, £0.04).

Here is the full statement from the three mobile phone companies:

Statement from Airtel/MTN/Africell
Airtel/MTN/Africell
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Uganda 'consults colonial map in UK over land dispute'

Uganda's government has sent a delegation to the UK for a colonial map which they hope will help them establish the boundary of a contested district in the country's east, reports the Daily Monitor.

The long-standing conflict is between the Iteso and Jopadhola communities over the exact location of the municipality of Tororo and its boundaries.

The delegation reportedly includes three leaders from the two rival communities, and four officials from the lands ministry, including Minister of Lands Betty Amongi.

A map showing the location of Tororo in Uganda
BBC
Tororo's current municipal boundaries are disputed by two communities