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Is Uganda sliding into the Dark Ages as the Government now moves to Block News Websites after imposing a daily tax on social media users?

by Milicent Atieno

According to a government directive through the Uganda Communication’s Commission (UCC), Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are to block all unauthorized news sites publishing content online from the East African nation.

There is a purported letter from the UCC to the ISPs doing round on social media. If the letter is anything to go by, ISPs are required to disable access to all ‘unauthorized’ news sites in Uganda, which have not received the regulator’s permission to publish content.

Reference is made to the above subject matter and a public notice issued by the Uganda Communications Commission on the 6th March 2018 requiring all Online Data Communication Service Providers (online newspaper service providers) to apply and obtain authorization from the Commission,” reads the letter in part.

Included in the letter is a table listing various online news sites and whether they have been authorized to publish content in Uganda or not. The list contains 14 media outlets, but only two are marked as authorized while the rest are marked as “application in process.”

The purpose of this letter, therefore, is to DIRECT you to IMMEDIATELY SUSPEND the provision of carriage services to any Online Data communication service provider (online/Electronic Media News provider) that is not listed above and/or has not presented an authorization certificate or other express clearance from the Uganda Communications Commission,” the letter continues.

In a nutshell, it would mean for any person or organization to publish any news article online it must be approved by the UCC. Now you can imagine how the UCC will treat any applicant who has a history of being critical of the government of the day.

This latest onslaught to the online freedom of speech comes barely a month after the government announced a UGX 100 ($0.027) daily tax on social media users. This tax will be levied on every SIM card that will be used to access any of the social media platforms.

The government says the decision to tax social media was reached following a resolution to deter Ugandans from going online only to gossip. Well, there is also the other fact that such a move will increase the government’s revenue to fund the domestic budget.

Related: Tanzanian bloggers will have to part with $900 as application fee to get a permit to blog in that country

The new taxation on social media is set to be effective from July 1st this year. It is important to remember that the Ugandan government blocked access to social media during their last presidential election, which was controversial in nature. Although some Ugandans became innovative and used VPNs to access the internet.

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