Freedom of Expression - Recent major event. Distribution of SMS’s From the Uzbek Central Election Commission

In December 2013, TeliaSonera adopted a Group Policy on Freedom of Expression in Telecommunications, available here. The Policy describes our commitments in relation to mandatory communications issued by government authorities.

Government's requests or demands upon operators often serve legitimate purposes, but they may also be problematic.

In Uzbekistan, this weekend, operators are obliged to distribute SMS’s from the Uzbek Central Election Commission via the ICT Ministry calling citizens to participate in the elections and be informed about election process regarding the upcoming presidential election.  According to local law, the ICT Ministry, alongside with other Ministries that relates to public information, technically supports the process of elections but not any specific candidates.

The obligation to send these messages are laid down in article 2.15 of the Ucell License Agreement according to which Ucell shall “participate on a share basis in the development and modernization of telecommunication networks by implementing targeting programs approved in accordance with stipulated orders”. The License Agreement is based on Law “On Telecommunication”, article 8.

The duty to send these messages in Uzbekistan are outside of normal commercial activities, falling under the obligation for informational support provided to population, connected to socially major events, such as: natural disasters emergency, annual individual tax declarations, personal safety on the roads, and /or elections. Sms –broadcast is to be sent by all market mobile operators, complementing the public informational campaign run by other media: TV channels, outdoor, and so on, without supporting one particular candidate.

TeliaSonera, as one of the ten principles in the Policy, argue that the company should retain operational control of its networks and systems. We have committed to report transparently, when relevant, in relation to obligations to transmit mandatory communications issued by government authorities.

The messages sent by the Central Election Commission will read “Dear elector! You may find the information about elections of President of Uzbekistan in the official website of Central Election Commission” and “Dear elector! Use your constitutional right and participate in president elections on March 29, 2015”.

The Policy of TeliaSonera 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, TeliaSonera does engage in dialogue regarding requests from authorities that are in line with country societal expectations of different stakeholders  that affect our business and customers of companies in which we have ownership interests.