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telecom in authoritarian regimes

Minister wants explanation from Telia Sonera

Published onsdag 18 april 2012 kl 19.12
Swedish Television reports that Telia Sonera, through a subsidiary, is providing information to intelligence services in several dictatorships. Photo: Scanpix Montage: Sveriges Radio

The Swedish government, which is the biggest owner in Telia Sonera, demanded an explanation from the telecom company on Wednesday, after it was revealed that its technology helps dictators and authoritarian regimes such as Belarus and Azerbaijan monitor their citizens.

The Minister for Financial Markets Peter Norman will meet with the chairman of Telia Sonera Anders Narvinger. In a written statement, he says he wants the company to present a plan for how its work with democracy in its partner companies.

In the statement, he says that "government owned companies must have a thought through strategy for dealing with human rights. The state owned companies are expected to work actively with these issues in their own companies as well as in co-operation with partners and subsidiaries".

According to Swedish Television's investigative programme "Uppdrag granskning" Telia Sonera, through a subsidiary, active in several countries, provides information to security services in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tadzhikistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Belarus.

"The conclusion is obvious. If I call my friend and I directly hear a reaction over the police radio, it means they are very efficient," says Dimitri, a union representative in Belarus. "That was the first time I noticed that they were tapping my phone."

It has long been a concern that telecom companies can be used to monitor political opponents in authoritarian regimes.

According to the programme Telia Sonera has installed a system allowing national security services in several central Asian countries to locate individuals through their cell phones. They system also provides easy access to text messages and phone calls.

In an interview with Swedish Radio, Foreign minister Carl Bildt says he does not think a government intervention will make much difference, as it has a "minority post in a company that has a minority post in another company abroad". Asked by the reporter about the allegations that the intelligence service is offered their own offices on the premises of the telecom company, Bildt says: "Well, I wouldn't be offering them offices, but I do not know what has happened. They will have to sort that out, actually".

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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