Uganda has just introduced a significant tax on social media usage. It is set at 200 shillings a day which adds up to about 3% of the average annual
income if used daily.
Use of a long list of websites including Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Tinder triggers the daily taxed through billing by ISPs.
And as you may expect Uganda internet users are turning to VPNs so that ISPs can't detect access to taxed apps and websites.
In response, the government says it has ordered local ISPs to begin blocking VPNs. In a statement, Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi said that Internet service providers would be ordered to block VPNs to prevent
citizens from avoiding the social media tax.
Mutabazi told Dispatch that ISPs are already taking action to prevent VPNs from being accessible but since there are so many, it won't be possible to block them all. In the meantime, the government is trying to portray VPNs as more expensive to
use than the tax. In a post on Facebook this morning, Mutabazi promoted the tax as the sensible economic option.
it appears that many Ugandans are outraged at the prospect of yet another tax and see VPN use as a protest, despite any additional cost. Opposition figures have already called for a boycott with support coming in from all corners of society. The
government appears unmoved, however. Frank Tumwebaze, Minister of Information Technology and Communications said:
If we tax essentials like water, why not social media?
Uganda is reviewing its decision to impose taxes on the use of social media and on money transactions by mobile phone, following a public backlash.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda made the announcement soon after police broke up a protest against the taxes.
President Yoweri Museveni had pushed for the taxes to boost government revenue and to restrict criticism via WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
The social media tax is 6000 Uganda shillings a month (£1.25), but it is represents about 3% of the average wage. Activists argue that while the amount may seem little, it represents a significant slice of what poorer people are paying for getting
online. There is also a 1% levy on the total value of mobile phone money transactions, affecting poorer Ugandans who rarely use banking services.
In a statement to parliament, Rugunda said:
Government is now reviewing the taxes taking into consideration the concerns of the public and its implications on the budget.
A revised budget is due to be tabled in parliament on 19 July.
In May, Tanzanian bloggers lost an appeal that had temporarily suspended a new set of regulations granting the country's Communication
Regulatory Authority discretionary powers to censor online content.
Officially dubbed the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, 2018 , the statute requires online content creators -- traditional media websites, online TV and radio channels, but also individual bloggers and podcasters
-- to pay roughly two million Tanzanian shillings (930 US dollars) in registration and licensing fees.
They must store contributors' details for 12 months and have means to identify their sources and disclose financial sponsors. Cyber cafes must install surveillance cameras, and all owners of electronic mobile devices, including phones, have to
protect them with a password. Failure to comply with the regulations -- which also forbid online content that is indecent, annoying, or that leads to public disorder -- will result in a five million Tanzanian shillings (2,202 US dollars) fine, a
jail term of not less than a year or both.
These new regulations are already forcing young content creators--and often poorer ones--offline. For a country like Tanzania, whose GDP per capita is 879 US dollars --and where approximately 70% of the population lives on less than two dollars a
day--the financial burden of these new laws means it is impossible to continue blogging.
A regional office of Nigeria's National Film and Video
Censors Board said it had burned pornographic films valued at millions of naira.
The burning of the pornographic materials, which took place at the Benin Centre office of the Board in Edo State, was performed by the Executive Director of the Board, Alhaji Adedayo Thomas. He said that there is no hiding place for sellers of
pornographic materials, stressing that the Board will continue its clamp down on their activities.
Adedayo noted that the Board will continue to engage the stakeholders and enlighten them on the dangers of dealing on pornographic materials to the society. He added that the Board has set up a special squad charged with the responsibility
of tackling the menace of pornography on the youth.
Inxeba (The Wound) is a 2017 South Africa / Germany / Netherlands / France gay romance by John Trengove.
Starring Nakhane Touré, Bongile Mantsai and Niza Jay.
Xolani, a lonely factory worker, travels to the rural mountains with the men of his community to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When a defiant initiate from the city discovers his best-kept secret, Xolani's entire existence begins
Award-winning movie Inxeba's reclassification as pornography has been overturned by the High Court in Pretoria' on the grounds that it was procedurally unfair and unlawful.
However, Judge Joseph Raulinga has stressed that Inxeba (The Wound)' which depicts a homosexual relationship between two men at an initiation school' violated the rights to dignity of Xhosa people. Furthermore' he said' if cultural beliefs and
practices are to be considered' the film is harmful and disturbing and exposes 16-year-olds to the sexual conduct depicted in the film.
The film included language that was degrading to Xhosa women and further exposes women to societal violence, such as rape. It contains harmful scenes that could cause tensions within the Xhosa community and even within the broader African
community. By implication, it has an effect on the rights of the Xhosa traditional group' he said.
Throughout his judgment' Raulinga stressed that the Inxeba filmmakers' rights to freedom of expression could not override the rights to dignity of Xhosa people.
On July 1, the Ugandan government began enforcing a new law that imposes a 200 shilling [US$0.05, 2£0.04] daily levy on people using internet messaging platforms, despite protests to the contrary from local and international online free speech
This move, according to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, has the dual purpose of strengthening the national budget and also curtailing gossip by Ugandans on social media. It was also popular among local telecom providers, who do not directly
benefit from the use of foreign-based over-the-top services such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp.
The polic was preceded with an order to register all new mobile SIM cards with the National Biometric Data Centre. The measure also forces Ugandans to only use mobile money accounts in order to recharge their SIM cards and makes it mandatory to
pay a one percent levy on the total value of transaction on any mobile money transaction .
These new policies make it more costly for Ugandans -- especially those living in poverty -- to communicate and perform everyday tasks using their mobile devices.
On July 2, civil society and legal advocates in Uganda filed a court challenge against the law, arguing that it violates the country's constitution.
A protester demonstrates his opposition to Uganda's social media tax at a gathering on July 6, 2018.
On July 6, concerned citizens and civil society advocates issued a joint press statement [see below] calling on Ugandans to avoid paying the tax by using alternate methods to exchange money and access social media, and to join a National Day of
Peaceful Protest Against Unfair Taxation on Wednesday, July 11, 2018.
The Global Voices community and our network of friends and allies wish to support this and other efforts to demand an end to the tax. We believe that this tax is simply a ploy to censor Ugandans and gag dissenting voices.
We believe social media should be freely accessible for all people, including Ugandans. The Ugandan social media tax must go!
On Monday, July 9, beginning at 14:00 East Africa Time, we plan to tweet at community leaders, government and diplomatic actors, and media influencers to increase awareness and draw public attention to the issue. We especially encourage fellow
bloggers and social media users all over the world to join us.