CEO statement: freedom of expression policy
Johan Dennelind's, CEO and President of TeliaSonera, statement regarding The TeliaSonera Group Policy on Freedom of Expression in Telecommunications:
"As a leading provider of telecommunication services, TeliaSonera is a vital part of the social and economic infrastructure in the markets where we operate. TeliaSonera provides tools and services that can significantly promote freedom of expression, even in countries where such freedoms are so far limited.
However, these tools and services are subjects to legislative, administrative, license or law enforcement requirements to which we are obliged to adhere, but which may impact an individual’s freedom of expression. Freedom of expression issues are often raised in relation to the development of telecommunications, including fixed and mobile telecommunications networks as well as the Internet.
As a company, we have an obligation to respect human rights under our Group Code of Ethics and Conduct, as well as under the United Nations’ Protect, Respect, and Remedy framework on business and human rights.
According to the TeliaSonera Group Code of Ethics and Conduct we aim to enable citizens to communicate and exchange ideas, and we strive to provide tools for the development of more open societies. Freedom of expression and privacy are at the core of our business. The right to privacy is often understood as an essential requirement for the realization of the right to freedom of expression.
On 5 December 2013 TeliaSonera’s Board of Directors adopted my proposal for a Group policy on freedom of expression in telecommunications. The policy is, to the best of our knowledge, the most far reaching such policy in the industry. I consider the Board’s decision a milestone in carrying out TeliaSonera’s ambitious sustainability agenda.
Let me underline a couple of important elements in the policy:
All companies in TeliaSonera shall also adopt a “point of challenge” and make careful assessments of all major requests and demands that may impact the freedom of expression, including assessments of possible impacts on freedom of expression.
A strict escalation procedure for decision making is put in place to follow the policy. Formal decisions on the extent of compliance or refusal to comply with problematic requests or demands shall not be made at local company level, unless there are exceptional reasons.
TeliaSonera will advocate and argue for clear and transparent legislation, engaging in dialogue regarding regulations that affect our business and our customers.
We are aware of the fact that our power to ensure freedom of expression in markets where we operate is limited. We can make a long lasting difference only by working together with our industry peers.
In 2011 TeliaSonera helped form an initiative which in March this year was launched as the Industry Dialogue, in which nine of the industry’s leading companies take part. The freedom of expression policy TeliaSonera has adopted is largely the result of learnings in context of this initiative.
To promote freedom of expression globally TeliaSonera will also continue to collaborate with governments, civil society including human rights experts, investors, supra-national organizations and other affected stakeholders. TeliaSonera will communicate and engage with all these stakeholder groups on the principles set out in this policy, while also promoting the principles actively in our own operations and business relationships.
With the new policy in place, we are better equipped to promote freedom of expression in all markets where we operate. I believe this is in and of itself a good thing for our customers and for us as a company. After all, we are in the business of providing means for people to express themselves.