TBILISI, DFWatch – The recent criticism against Swedish telecom giant Teliasonera’s cooperation with totalitarian regimes in the former Soviet Union has prompted the company to start a new program for ensuring that human rights are observed.

-We denounce all human rights violations and want to send a clear signal that we have taken note of the criticism against us and are ready to do what we can to support the struggle towards a more open society in all countries where we have a presence, says Teliasonera board chairman Anders Narvinger in a press release.

A report on Swedish SVT1 showed how the company’s subsidiaries in former Soviet republics are facilitating the security services’ surveillance of opposition activists and independent journalists.

Surveillance of phones connected to Teliasonera subsidiary Geocell’s network formed part of the case against two of the four photo journalists who were charged with being Russian spies in summer of 2011, in a case by many seen as retribution for the photographers’ work in documenting a brutal police action against demonstrators.

One of Sweden’s largest newspapers, Aftonbladet, called for the government to take measures against Teliasonera’s practice.

The company has now decided to initiate a new program to defend integrity and freedom of expression in the countries concerned.

As part of the program, the company wants to start a dialogue with the authorities in these countries.