In an article published on its website on 20 February this week by an obscure blogger under the title “Eritrea’s ‘Diaspora Tax’ is Funding Violence and Oppression,” the news channel recycles a moot, long-discredited, and libelous accusation against Eritrea without any modicum of validation*. It is indeed sad and regrettable that Aljazeera has again chosen to publish what is, sadly, an amalgam of outright falsehoods, insinuations, insults, and inaccuracies – many of which are simple regurgitations of those peddled in the past. But this has become a pattern for the news agency for many years now.
In the first place, Eritrea’s 2% Rehabilitation and Recovery Tax (RRT) is its sovereign, legal right and fully consistent with international law. It is levied in accordance with the legislative act that was passed in 1994.
In stark contrast to what has been described, the collection of the RRT is conducted through normative and appropriate transactional modalities, with consulates/embassies offering ordinary consular services, including, but not limited to, the provision of relevant information to citizens.
Globally, tax evasion is regarded as a significant problem and serious crime. In fact, it is a felony punishable by law – mostly entailing imprisonment – in almost all United Nations Member States. In terms of Eritrea’s RRT, there are explicit clauses on penalties that apply to tax evasion. However, the country’s legal administrative procedures against RRT evasion are hardly onerous, by any standard or measure, and do not include imprisonment. In brief, a citizen who fails or opts not to pay the RRT will simply forfeit business licenses and land entitlement rights in the home country, but remain fully entitled to all of their rights and consular services. Again, contrary to false claims made, Eritrea does not utilize extortion, intimidation, coercion or threats of violence, fraud, or illicit means in collection of the RRT.
Furthermore, although attempts have been made to link the RRT with purported acts of “violence and oppression”, the truth is far different. Since it was enacted nearly three decades ago, within the context of Eritrea’s long struggle for independence, the RRT has been an important alternative source of reconstruction and financing for the country’s various development programmes and wide range of social welfare initiatives, all of which are rooted in the country’s longstanding commitment to social justice and equality. Notably, the RRT is also consistent with the spirit of renewed efforts and initiatives by regional and global organizations to mobilize greater involvement of the African Diaspora in the social, political, cultural, and economic development of their countries of origin. In many ways, Eritrea’s RRT should be emulated, commended, and encouraged, not disparaged or punished.
In countries across the world, people look to the mainstream media, including global outlets such as Al Jazeera, to maintain high standards of integrity, objectivity, and balance. However, in its latest article on Eritrea, the outlet has been cavalier with the truth and widely missed the mark. Unfortunately, this is not the first time.
Although Eritrea has respectfully forwarded numerous formal complaints to Al Jazeera in the hopes of finding redress to problematic, erroneous reporting by the outlet, its concerns have invariably been ignored. This is quite telling of its deliberate aim of advancing some negative agenda.
*Eritrea had submitted a comprehensive response to the UN in 2014 when these accusations were pushed by certain countries through the Somali-Eritrea Monitoring Group in their attempts for incorporation into the “sanctions regime”. This information is available in the public domain.