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Uganda's Social Media Tax to Stay Despite Protests

FILE - Musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi, center, is joined by other activists during a demonstration to protest a controversial tax on the use of social media, in Kampala, Uganda, July 11, 2018.

The Ugandan government says it will keep a social media tax in place despite an uproar.

Users of social media in Uganda will continue paying the daily tax of 53 cents to access online services such as Facebook, Google, Whatsapp and Skype.

On Wednesday, President Yoweri Museveni summoned legislators of the ruling National Resistance Movement party to discuss the tax. Finance Minister Matia Kasaija introduced an amendment to the law Thursday, but only to reduce a tax on mobile money services by a half-percent.

The social media tax, which went into effect July 1, will remain, he said.

Museveni said the tax was aimed at curbing gossip online. However, users of social media and other online services have described it as an infringement on the right to freedom of expression and freedom to access information.

Legislator Robert Kyagulanyi, commonly known as Bobi Wine, is facing charges of inciting the public for leading a protest against the tax.

He says young Ugandans will not be placated by a reduction in the mobile money tax.

"Now, it is evident that government is only trying to buy time so that Ugandans become complacent and used to this oppression which we refuse," Kyagulanyi said. "This time, as leaders, we are only coming to join Ugandans because the people raised their voice — which has been and still stands — that this tax must go."

The Finance Ministry says it has collected about $1.8 million from the social media and mobile money taxes. Many Ugandans are attempting to avoid the taxes by staying offline or using virtual private networks.