The Corradino Correctional Facility has admitted that it had blocked a landline and mobile number to broadcaster Peppi Azzopardi so that prisoners would not be able to call him, the Institute of Journalists said on Thursday.

It said it had complained officially and the prisons operations director had acted swiftly to restore the service. 

Azzopardi had complained that the prison management had blocked access to the landline number of TV programme Xarabank – 21249200 - as well as access to his personal mobile number.

He pointed out that prisoners could call family, friends, lawyers, journalists but they could not call him because the numbers were blocked.

Azzopardi, who campaigns for prisoners' rights, also argued that all calls were recorded for security reasons so there was no reason why his numbers should have been blocked.

Randolph Spiteri, the prison's head of administration and operations, said  that verifications showed that the numbers were blocked several years ago. The landline was blocked in 2008 while the mobile number was blocked on August 4, 2017.

“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,” he said.

“Today, the management of the Correctional Services Agency sees no reason why these numbers should be blocked. Therefore, the necessary steps have been taken to prevent this from happening.” 

Spiteri later informed the IĠM that the numbers had been unblocked.

While noting the immediate action taken, the institute said it condemns the prison authorities for preventing prisoners from contacting a journalist.

"This is outright censorship and deprives inmates from access to a journalist who was reporting on the conditions in prison. The IGM hopes such acts of censorship do not happen again," it said.  

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