One of Malta’s leading presenters and journalists has reacted to the confirmation that Malta’s prison had been barring prisoners from calling him to share their stories for years.
“It is incredible, it’s unjust, it is shocking – but it also shows how prison treats its prisoners,” Peppi Azzopardi told Lovin Malta. “It’s unjust for the people in there, and the fact that this country accepted that a journalist could be blocked for all these years…”
Azzopardi had repeatedly raised concerns that both his private number as well as the landline number to Xarabank had been blocked in prison calls for years, even letting the Home Affairs Ministry know on several occasions, he said.
Today, years later, a complaint he raised with the Institute of Maltese Journalists (IGM) finally led to an admission from Corradino Correctional Facility authorities that his number had indeed been blocked.
“CCF Head Administration and Operations, Randolph Spiteri, replied to the IGM complaint by saying that the management of the Agency for Correctional Services took note of this complaint and that verifications showed that the numbers were blocked several years ago,” the IGM said in a statement today.
The Xarabank landline that led to Azzopardi was blocked in 2008 while his personal mobile number was also blocked on 4th August, 2017.
However, prison authorities failed to explain why they had blocked Azzopardi’s number, saying: “In view of the fact that this decision was taken before the current leadership we are not in position to give a reason why such a decision was taken”.
In response, Azzopardi is quite clear: “They are saying they didn’t do it, but they sure were happy to keep it blocked all these years. It was still convenient for them to keep me blocked”.
Azzopardi, who has been calling for prison reform for decades and would receive regular calls from prisoners – sometimes even amounting to one or two calls a day – believes he was blocked “because they don’t want the prisoners to call me and tell me about all the atrocities going on in there”.
“All this shows is how dangerous prison authorities consider me to be – I was dangerous during the Nationalist’s time, and I continue to be so during Labour’s time.”
Azzopardi wanted to thank the IGM who were instrumental in getting his number unblocked
“I appreciated the immediate action by the IGM after I had told them that my concerns were being ignored, and within two days they unblocked it – I just want to say how effective the IGM truly is,” he said.
And he’s also put out a message to the families and relatives of prisoners in Malta.
“Let the prisoners know – they can contact me whenever they need.”
What do you make of Malta’s prison blocking a journalist’s number for 13 years?