TeliaSonera launches action programme for protection of privacy and freedom of expression

Following media criticism during the past few days and clear signals from our shareholders, TeliaSonera launches an action programme for handling issues related to protection of privacy and freedom of expression in non-democratic countries, in a better and more transparent way.

Press release 27 April 2012

The measures to be taken include, for example, an overhaul of compliance with the regulatory frameworks governing operations in the countries under discussion, cooperation with external experts on human rights, and initiatives to start a dialogue with the authorities in the countries in question. At the same time, we will begin internal work to develop our risk analysis, improve reporting, increase transparency and provide our employees with training on human rights.

“We take distance from all violations of human rights and want to send a clear signal that we have taken the criticism seriously and are prepared to do what we can in order to support the efforts to increase the openness in society in the countries where we operate,” says Anders Narvinger, Chairman of TeliaSonera’s Board of Directors.

Anders Narvinger met Peter Norman, Minister of Financial Markets in Sweden, earlier today to present the initiatives the company will now take.

“I regard our dialogue as constructive, but at the same time I realize that we will probably need to do more to win back confidence in the way we handle corporate responsibility related issues in countries with dictatorship or with challenges related to democracy,” says Anders Narvinger.

TeliaSonera has conducted operations in Central Asia since the late 1990’s, when the countries had only just become independent after being part of the Soviet Union. We have therefore gained a deep understanding and knowledge of people's situation in the region. During many years, we have worked extensively and hard with essential social responsibility issues, such as problems with corruption, employee rights, and vendor contacts.

“This debate has proved that we need to do more and communicate more clearly as regards the difficult issues related to protection of privacy and freedom of expression, which have an impact on all of our 36 million customers in the region,” Anders Narvinger continues.

The action plan presented to Peter Norman, Minister of Financial Markets, on Thursday morning includes, for example, the following measures:

  • Renewing the analysis of the legal and licence-based requirements on each market in order to ensure that TeliaSonera does not go beyond the law’s requirements and that there is a solid process and escalation model when our active participation is required.
  • Requesting that Turkcell's Board of Directors launch corresponding efforts in its subsidiary in Belarus.
  • Taking initiatives to start a dialogue with the telecommunications minister of each country in question.
  • Improving the transparency of information from our subsidiaries to the company’s management in order to ensure the correct level of knowledge in these important issues.

TeliaSonera will also reprioritize parts of its sustainability work planned for 2012 as follows:

  • Focusing the already planned training of all our 29,000 employees, in relation to the implementation of our code of ethics and conduct on human-rights-related issues.
  • Further developing and integrating human-rights-related risk assessments in connection with investments and business decisions, including information on the requirements set by local legislation and licences.
  • Focusing the already planned analysis related to human rights on questions related to freedom of expression and protection of privacy. We also intend to consult external experts on human rights to receive support for the process.

The regulatory framework is the same for all mobile operators, and TeliaSonera has no other, special agreements or understandings in addition to those prescribed in the local legislation and licences. As an individual company, we have limited possibilities of influencing questions related to protection of privacy and freedom of expression. We will therefore intensify our efforts to handle these questions in our recently launched industry initiative, which comprises 12 of the world’s leading telecom companies, so that we can together navigate correctly in these difficult and complex issues. Together we hope to be able to achieve more.

TeliaSonera will also develop and verify its sustainability reporting and schedule regular meetings with the shareholders, focused on sustainability and ethical issues.

For more information, contact TeliaSonera press off service: 0771 77 58 30, press@teliasonera.com