Responding to criticism

Telia says it will be "better and more transparent"

The Swedish-Finnish telecom company Telia Sonera presented a plan on Thursday that they say will help them avoid being complicit in human rights abuses in other countries.

The move comes after the company was criticized last week for selling technology that was being used for surveillance by the security services of hard-liner regimes like Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Uzbekistan

Telia Sonera says it will begin a dialogue with the governments in all of the countries in which it operates. And the company will increase its work with non-profit organizations.

"It's a good package. It's a change from this company. That's what we asked for and that's what they've done," says Peter Norman, Sweden's minister of Financial Markets.

The Swedish state is the largest shareholder in Telia Sonera.

Swedish Television reported last week that several hard-liner countries' security services had full access to Telia's net. The security services could track data traffic and listen to telephone conversations, leading to arrests of members of the political opposition.

The revelations led several major shareholders to protest, some sold their shares in the company, and the city of Stockholm threatened to cancel 40,000 telephone subscriptions.

"Now we're going to do a review in each of these countries where we have direct operational responsibility, and there are surely areas where we can do better, but I can't say anything more about this right now," Anders Narvinger, Telia's chairman of the board, told news agency TT.

Narvinger added that issues of integrity and surveillance were an industry-wide problem.

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