Respecting freedom of expression – Information about and Telia Company view on new legislation in Tajikistan

According to Telia Company’s Group Policy on Freedom of Expression in Telecommunications we will, whenever possible, report on new legislation with potentially serious impacts on the freedom of expression of our customers.

Telia Company’s Group Policy on Freedom of Expression in Telecommunications is available here.

Government’s surveillance and control of communications often serve legitimate purposes such as the protection of certain human rights, but they may also be problematic in that they could conflict with other human rights. Telia Company’s commitment is to respect freedom of expression in telecommunications.

New legislation in Tajikistan on communications surveillance was published on January 14, 2016. This ‘Presidential Decree / Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan #765’ is to be implemented step-by-step during 2016. The legislation;

  1. Provides for a “Unified Electronic Communications Switching Center”; and
  2. Requires that all Internet and mobile communications traffic (i.e. voice and data) be run through the single state-owned telecoms provider Tajiktelecom.

This legislation increases the government's power to shut down and block services without obtaining the assistance of service providers—i.e. while instructions on blocking websites were previously issued to individual providers, this new legislation will allow government to impose blocks themselves. The legislation also increases the risk of a “man in the middle” attack.

Amendments in December, 2015, № 1266, article 20 to the ‘Law on Combating Terrorism’ allow for Government blocking the Internet and telephone systems during counterterrorism operations, particularly if these mediums are spreading forbidden information. Telecom services can be temporarily suspended in the antiterrorist operation area as well as throughout the country. Definitions of what content constitutes a threat to national security are unclear.

Finally, it can be noted that according to amendments in December 2015 to the ‘Electronic Communications Law’, all active mobile-phone SIM cards sold in Tajikistan are required to be reregistered. These amendments will make it compulsory for buyers to leave their fingerprints along with passport details when purchasing mobile phone SIM cards. Reregistration is required to be carried out by mobile-phone-service providers and tightens control over who sells or buys new mobile phone cards which reduces options for anonymous and/or private communications.

Information about the laws is available, in Russian, via the following link; http://www.adlia.tj/show_doc.fwx?rgn=126004 

The Policy of Telia Company is not to engage in the politics of the countries in which we operate. We do not comment on politics or make political statements when representing our company. However, Telia Company does engage in dialogue regarding regulations that affect our business and customers of companies in which we have ownership interests. Telia Company, as further defined in our Group Policy, advocates clear and transparent legal provisions on proportionality and necessity for all government legislation in the context of surveillance and control over communications. Telia Company will continue to promote these views, also when interacting with the Government of Tajikistan in applying this new legislation.