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Social media tax battle goes to court

The social media tax took effect on July 1 following a directive from President Museveni. Five concerned citizens and a Technological company ; Cyber law Initiative have petitioned the Constitutional court for orders to annul it. (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA. Five concerned citizens and a Technological company;  Cyber law Initiative have petitioned  the Constitutional court for orders to annul the new social media tax of shs.200 per day which is to be paid by all social media users.

The petitioners include; Daniel Bill Opio, Mosese Baguma, Emmanuel Okiror, Silver Kayondo and Raymond Mujuni.

The new tax is known as Over the Top. (OTT).

The petitioners led by Opio have sued the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to explain why it gave an enabling environment for URA to collect this tax since yesterday and the AG to explain why Government does not offer free internet services to its citizens.

They also sued the Attorney General.

In their law suit filed before the Constitutional Court, the petitioners claim the tax is politically motivated since it was passed with no meaningful public participation, hinders freedom of speech, economic growth, innovation and will have a negative impact on on-line media.

Through their lawyers of M/S Aguma Kifunga & Co. Advocates and M/S Ortus LLP, the group contends that the new tax if not annulled, will curtail business start-ups and effect job seekers there by infringing on the economic rights of citizens.

“Unless restrained, the third respondent (URA) is already collecting and will continue to collect the impugned social media tax,” reads in part the court documents.

They also contend that the impugned social media tax economically complicates circumscribes and strangulates the online enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms that are not hindered offline.

“The process enacting the impugned law was devoid of any meaningful public participation or consultation and the social media tax offends online press freedom as well as the principles of open internet and neutrality,” reads the court documents.

The social media tax was approved and passed by parliament for the financial years 2018/2019 and as of yesterday 1st/July, access to internet was limited to users who have paid the 200 shillings

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