KAMPALA: Uganda’s major Telecom companies have announced that starting next month; they will be blocking usage of social media sites to customers pending payment of a new tax that was recently introduced by government.
The Ministry of Finance, working on President Yoweri Museveni’s directive, introduced a Shs 200 daily excise duty on usage of social media sites, also known as OTT sites.
These include among others WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
In a joint statement Wednesday morning, Telecoms MTN, Airtel and Africell announced that the social media platforms “will be blocked effective July 1st 2018, and access will only be granted upon payment of the tax by the customer.”
Customers, according to the statement will be able to pay the tax using MTN mobile money and Airtel Money. Africell customers can use both MTN and Airtel Money to pay.
The Companies announced in the statement, that customers will need to dial *185*2*5# (for Airtel) and *165*2*5# (for MTN) to make the payment.
“The taxes can be paid for access for daily (Shs 200) weekly (Shs 1400) and monthly (Shs 6000),” the companies announced.
“Access will be granted for a calendar day until 12am, that is, until midnight if the customer has paid for one day.”
This tax has been condemned by rights advocates as a direct affront on Ugandans’ right to free communication.
But President Museveni in defence of the new tax said Ugandans spend a lot of time gossiping on these platforms.
On May 30, 2018, Parliament passed into law the controversial Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill despite strong protests from critics as an attempt to stifle Internet freedom and online expression in the country.