BY FRANCIS EMUKULE
The Over The Top (OTT) tax introduced by the Government this financial year has left a big number of students disconnected from the Internet.
Activists, students and scholars attending a recent debate organised by the European Union (EU) delegation in Uganda on Media for Democracy at Uganda Christian University, expressed concern over the new tax and its implications to the youth.
Andrew Gole, one of the panellists noted that, 30 percent of the young people were cut off social media following the introduction of the Shs200 daily tax imposed on Social Media usage.
“This taxation has also hindered several civil societies from promoting democracy through social media because most of the people were cut off from its usage,” Gole said.
Crispin Kaheru, a human rights activist who conceptualized and ran an innovative and motivational voter education campaign, called Topowa (don’t give up) during the 2016 General Elections, noted that instead of the Government blocking young people from accessing social media by introducing the tax, it should adopt targeted censoring of content.
“Shutting young people out of conversations about governance issues is a deliberate way of barring them from taking part in most of the electoral processes,” Kaheru said
The debate was held in commemoration of International Democracy and International Universal Access to Information Day.
In her deliberations, Dr Monica Chibita, the Dean of Faculty of Journalism, Media and Communications at UCU, observed that, despite the fact that the social media has been efficient in fostering mediation, there is need for Government to ease taxes on gadgets to ease access to the Internet.
Meanwhile, Barbara Among, an investigative journalist who worked with both the Daily Monitor and New vision, urged the young people to use social media for more productive work.
“I think it is important for the young people to create more organised groups that can help steer uniform ideologies,” Among said.
The panellists also discussed the cruel environment in Uganda under which journalists execute their duties.
Kaheru explained that the environment in which media plays its role is very harsh. He noted that the journalists don’t feel protected at all while executing their duties and that most times they are scared to go and cover stories in risky environments such as riots.
The theme of the debate was “Media and Democracy: How CivicTech and the media can help foster strategic partnerships between civil society and the Government of Uganda.”