Offering Nokia a new perspective

A response to the 27.2.2008 Helsingin Sanomat article "Nokia doing business with Turkmenistan dictatorship" was made by the Nokia Executive Vice President of Corporate Relations and Responsibility, Veli Sundbäck and Head of Corporate Affairs of Nokia Siemens Networks, Lauri Kivinen. Their statement firmly denies that the company deviates from its self-stated ethical guidelines in any of its dealings with Turkmenistan. Below is a new perspective for Nokia from the makers of the film Shadow of the Holy Book.

Nokia states in its corporate responsibility report that it takes human rights into account in all decisions and operative methods relating to business activity. Nokia and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) nevertheless operate in Turkmenistan, a country that is classed as one of the worst three dictatorships in the world, and one that blatantly violates human rights and denies freedom of speech. Now that these business activities have been publicised, Nokia pleads that there is no obstacle for business because the country in question is not subject to a formal embargo. So why supposedly uphold ethical guidelines? Why speak about respecting human rights, if this goes undemonstrated in practice? The word 'embargo' is beside the point here - it is not mentioned in Nokia's corporate responsibility report in connection to human rights.

Nokia and NSN also state that the expansion of their GSM-network and the concurrent increase of telecommunications connections offer Turkmenistan important benefits, such as increasing the availability of information. In contrast, many dissidents and human rights activists who have fled Turkmenistan believe that the Nokia Siemens network only improves information collection for the state secret police and enables more effective surveillance of dissidents.

A year before Nokia and Siemens' joint company, Nokia Siemens Networks, was founded we informed the Nokia leadership (and even made a short film for the Internet: about what Siemens have done in Turkmenistan:

a) Siemens have praised and courted the dictator through expressing appreciation for the Ruhnama book, which has destroyed the country's educational system and is an important instrument for the dictatorship.

b) Siemens have delivered a wire-tapping system for Turkmenistan, which the government is using to arrest dissidents and destroy their opposition.

Nokia didn't want to comment on these issues and was surprisingly hesitant to hear the recent history of its business partner-to-be. In any case Nokia has been informed of the actions of Siemens, and regardless of this NSN has stepped into Turkmenistan in Siemens' footprints. As long-active Siemens leadership personnel are now also acting as part of the Nokia Siemens board and leadership, it is hard for political refugees to believe that the NSN network is not also a part of the Turkmenistan government's wider wire-tapping system. Just recently, on the 28th of February the Vice Chairman of Nokia Siemens Networks, and a member of Siemens' Board of Directors, Rudi Lamprecht, held a meeting with Turkmenistan's dictator Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov in order to negotiate about both NSN's and Siemens' business relations with Turkmenistan.

The questions that Nokia still declines to answer are as relevant as ever: Why are they collaborating with a dictatorship? Why are they collaborating with a company that has produced a wire-tapping system for a dictatorship? Why do they show no concern that NSN's equipment may be used for spying on the dictatorship's own citizens?

In our film Shadow of the Holy Book the chairman of the Finnish Ensto admits the company's mistake and notes that Ensto has ended any attempted collaboration with the dictatorship, encouraging other companies to do the same. All of us make mistakes, including companies. Therefore we encourage Nokia to admit its mistakes and initiate new discussion and deliberation on ethical values and their practical application. We still want Nokia to be our honest flagship for Finland.

We hope that Nokia does not continue to deny known facts. It would demonstrate worrying carelessness regarding their own actions and the consequences of those actions, and how the activities of international businesses, including Nokia and NSN, help to keep the dictatorship alive in Turkmenistan and oppress ordinary Turkmen citizens.

The makers of the film Shadow of the Holy Book:

Arto Halonen
Film director, screenwriter

Kevin Frazier