RESPECTING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION – TELIA COMPANY VIEW ON CHANGES OF LAW ON ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS IN LITHuANIA

According to Telia Company’s Group Policy on Freedom of Expression in Telecommunications we will, whenever possible, report on developments with potentially serious impacts on the freedom of expression of our customers. Government’s surveillance of communications often serve legitimate purposes such as the protection of certain interests of the state, but it may also be problematic that such protection could conflict with human rights. Telia Company’s commitment is to respect freedom of expression in telecommunications.

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

The changes to legislation were introduced in Lithuania in June this year. According to the changes of Law on Electronic Communications (unofficial translation) surveillance authorities will no longer need a Court sanction in every circumstance to have direct access to the networks of the companies which provide electronic communication networks and (or) services. The amended legal provisions state that it is enough for those surveillance authorities to have other legal basis established in the law in order to gain access to the relevant companies’ networks. Also according to the Law on Electronic Communications, intelligence institutions, criminal intelligence institutions and pre-trial investigation bodies referred to by the government can ask for the relevant information from the companies with a view to forecasting, identifying and eliminating risks to state sovereignty, territorial integrity, constitutional order, state interests, state defense or economic interests. The companies which provide electronic communication networks and (or) services have the obligation to provide the requested information. This move by the Lithuanian legislative institutions is driven by the need to increase security measures in Lithuania.

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, when possible, and transparency 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 that non-transparent legal provisions are not appropriate when freedom of expression is at stake. It will be important in the case of Lithuania to ensure Court sanctions and sound oversight of judicial authorities continues. Telia Company will continue to promote this view and our policy, also when interacting with the authorities in Lithuania in their continued implementation of this new legislation.