PBS ordered to air feature which portrays the 'real situation' in prison

The national broadcaster has one week to air a feature which depicts the true picture inside Malta’s prison after the Broadcasting Authority rules that a feature aired on Popolin was one-sided

A screenshot of the feature which aired on TVM’s Popolin on 30 April
A screenshot of the feature which aired on TVM’s Popolin on 30 April

The Broadcasting Authority has ordered the national broadcaster to air a feature which portrays the "real situation" in prison which "respects people’s intelligence".

The BA ordered the Public Broadcasting Services to engage "an independent and impartial producer" to prepare a three-minute feature about the Corradino Correctional Facility within one week.

The ruling comes following a complaint by Faculty for Social Wellbeing dean Andrew Azzopardi and presenter Peppi Azzopardi on a promotional feature produced by the CCF during programme Popolin.

The two complained that during the 30 April programme, a feature on the situation in prison painted a picture that was far from the truth. The feature was produced by the Correctional Services Agency.

They said the feature made it seem that the prison was “one big village” where everybody was living a good life, when in fact it was an oppressive place.

The number of deaths and suicides, the Azzopardi’s argued, highlighted the prison’s depressing state.

Andrew Azzopardi said that contrary to the impression given, only 70 prisoners were learning a trade during their time in jail and prisoners find it very difficult to rebuild their lives after their release.

Peppi Azzopardi said some of the services mentioned in the feature, were not even provided at the CCF premises.

PBS editor Norma Saliba and lawyer Ishmael Psaila defended the feature, saying the complaint was subjective.

Saliba said PBS often reported criticism on the prison authorities as well as about deaths and suicides in prison, insisting the station had its own editorial discretion and could not be expected to feature a programme that would not have been verified by its editors.  

The BA ruled that the feature only presented one side of the story.

It also noted that although the programme’s presenter, Quinton Scerri, said this was one of a series of productions, no other feature about prison was broadcast after the complaint was filed.

Upholding the complaint, the BA gave PBS one week to air another feature produced by an impartial and independent person.