TeliaSonera has been criticised in the past for serving the interests of authoritarian regimes in its operations abroad. Now Swedish Radio News reports that a subsidiary of the mostly publically-owned telecoms company has blocked access to independent news sites in Tajikistan, on the orders of that country’s government.
TeliaSonera is made up of the former public telephone companies of Sweden and Finland, and remains mostly owned by the Swedish and Finnish states. It is also the majority owner of the Tajik company TCell, and according to reports TCell has blocked access to some 50 websites.
Swedish Radio News had an independent journalist in Tajikistan test TDCell, and reported not being able to access two major Russian news bureaus, an independent regional news site, YouTube, the leading Tajik news site news.tj, and others.
The head of information for TeliaSonera, Thomas Jönsson, tells Swedish Radio News that the closures followed orders from the Tajik government.
He says he naturally believes that information should be freely available. But when a country raises internal security issues, under the regulations they have to follow such requests.
However Johann Bihr of Reporters Without Borders says TCell should have waited for court orders, under the international conventions that Tajikistan has signed.
The head of the Swedish branch of Amnesty International, Lise Berg, says their information confirms that TCell is acting without court orders, and says the government of Tadjikistan is far from democratic. She says Tajikistan is a country where freedom of expression is very restricted, and where the regime continuously threatens, harasses, and jails journalists and others who try to criticize it.
Nuriddin Karshiboyev, head of the National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan, says that by serving the dictates of the Tajik regime the Swedish subsidiary is complicit in violations of the Tajik people’s right to free and independent information.