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Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2020 - Take Action for Paola Ugaz

Monday 9 November 2020 - 1:02pm

Paola Ugaz Photo Marina García Burgos

Read Solidarity Letter From Elena Poniatowska To Paola Ugaz

Paola Ugaz is a Peruvian investigative journalist, editor and writer. She is facing a campaign of legal harassment, threats, and defamation lawsuits due to her investigations into acts of corruption, as well as physical, psychological and sexual abuse within the Peruvian religious organization Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana, which she has been investigating since 2010.

In 2015, Pedro Salinas and Paola Ugaz published the book Mitad monjes, mitad soldados (Half Monks, Half Soldiers) (Planeta, 2015), which uncovered the biggest scandal within a Catholic organization in Peru. Ugaz began to receive complaints and lawsuits following the announcement she was publishing a new book (still to be published) about the group's financial management.

Ugaz faces at least five legal proceedings for the publication of her book and investigative journalism. On 2 October 2020, she received a death threat on her Instagram account. On 27 October 2020 a new hearing was held, in which the judge decided to open a judicial process against her for aggravated defamation. The trial stems from a complaint filed by Luciano Revoredo Rojas, a former congressional candidate and director of the conservative Catholic news and commentary website La Abeja. Revoredo wrote that he was involved with the organization in the 1980s. La Abeja has published many articles defending Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana. If convicted, Paola Ugaz could face a three-year prison sentence and heavy fines, as established under the Criminal Code of Perú.

On 12 November 2020, a judge will decide whether to open a further lawsuit, filed by ‘Sodalicio’ worker Carlos Alberto Gomez de la Torre Pretell, who has sued Ugaz for defamation following her participation in a 40-second statement, broadcast by Al Jazeera in a documentary titled "The Sodalitium Scandal."

At the same time, Ugaz has been the target of a smear and disinformation campaigns for her work as a journalist where, without any evidence, she is linked to alleged criminal networks, money laundering, uranium and plutonium trading, among other charges. It has also published private data about her children, who are minors, and her colleague Pedro Salinas, co-author of the book.

PEN International considers that the charges, threats and legal harassment against journalist Paola Ugaz are violating her right to freedom of expression, as well as her civil and political rights. PEN calls on the Peruvian authorities to cease immediately the legal harassment Ugaz faces for her work as a journalist. PEN demands that the authorities dismiss all charges against Ugaz, and requests that they place her under immediate protection.

Take Action – Share on Twitter, Facebook and other social media using the hashtag #ImprisonedWriter #PaolaUgaz

Please, send appeals to the Peruvian authorities:

  • PEN expresses deep concern that Paola Ugaz is being prosecuted and sued for her investigative journalism, her books and those she intends to publish.
  • PEN calls for a halt to the judicial proceedings against Ugaz, considering that the complaints and prosecutions are intended to stop her investigations and prevent the publication of her books, as well as to impose a chilling effect and prevent other journalists from exercising their right to freedom of expression.
  • PEN calls upon the Peruvian authorities to repeal criminal defamation legislation, which is still in force in Perú. Such legislation impedes the exercise of citizens' rights to know and to hold their governments to account and limits freedom of expression.

President of the Republic of Perú

Sr. Manuel Merino de Lama
e-mail. atencion-ciudadano@presidencia.gob.pe
Tel. +51 3113900 ext. 7405
Twitter: @MerinoDeLama @presidenciaperu
Address: Jr. de la Unión s / n 1st block
Cercado de Lima, Lima - Peru

Public Ministry Prosecutor's Office of the Nation
Mrs. Zoraida Ávalos Rivera
Attorney of the Nation
Email zavalos@mpfn.gob.pe
Tel. +51 208 5555 (5202) - (5201)
Twitter @FiscaliaPeru
Address: Av. Abancay Cdra 5 (Headquarters in Lima) LIMA - Perú

Judiciary of Peru
Dr. José Luis Lecaros Cornejo
President of the Judiciary
Email: jlecaros@pj.gob.pe
Tel. (01) 4101010 Annex 11000
T. @Poder_Judicial_
Address Av. Paseo de la República S / N Palacio de Justicia, Cercado, Lima - Peru

Ombudsman
Walter Gutierrez Camacho
Ombudsman
Tel: 01-311 0300 - Annex 1202E
Email: defensor@defensoria.gob.pe
Address: Jirón Ucayali 394 - 398 Lima 1
Send copies to the Embassy of Perú in your own country. Embassy addresses may be found here: https://embassy.goabroad.com/e...

Publicity:

We encourage PEN members to:

*Please inform PEN International if you take any action or get any response. Send us reports on the actions you take. This is key to be able to monitor the impact that our campaign has in relation to the case of Paola Ugaz*

Others

  • Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Paola Ugaz and the importance of freedom of expression in Peru;
  • Share information about Paola Ugaz and her activities on social media, and please use the hashtag #ImprisonedWriter
  • Share the work of Paola Ugaz.

Social media

Please use the hashtag #ImprisonedWriter

Share information about Paola Ugaz and her activities in favor of your case via social networks.

Suggested tweets:

  • Stop the threats and judicial harassment against Paola Ugaz #ImprisonedWriter
  • On the Day of the #ImprisonedWriter join PEN and act on behalf of #PaolaUgaz (insert link to action page)

Quote-Cards-ENG-Ugaz-FB.jpg#asset:9120

Imprisoned writers rely on PEN to advocate for their freedom and to defy those who want to silence them. From practical support for writers seeking asylum or in exile, to using our platforms to share their words, to putting pressure on the powerful – this work is only possible with your support.

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Read solidarity letter from Elena Poniatowska to Paola Ugaz

My dear Paola,

As a writer and journalist myself, I know that our profession is not always a comfortable one to pursue. Nor should it be. We do not set out to make ourselves liked. Instead, we set out to speak the truth to the best of our ability. We believe that no one should be above criticism, and certainly no religious or political institution, however rich or powerful.

When I read about the harassment you are facing – the drawn-out legal cases, the prospect of imprisonment and fines, even the death threat that you received – I am shocked and saddened, but not surprised.

It’s no wonder that some want to silence us when we bear witness to the voices of those who would otherwise go unheard. They are afraid of the truth because, once revealed, it can no longer be hidden or contained.

I salute the choice you have made – to write, to speak, to publish. For every choice – to speak or to keep silent – is a political choice as well as a personal one. It’s a choice which shows where your values lie and underlines your commitment to a more honest, more equal world.

On your darkest days, I hope that this letter brings you hope. Not because of my words, because of the attention that this letter can help bring to yours. Sometimes it is not necessary to imprison a writer in order to silence them. Those with power can try to silence you by threatening your reputation, your voice, your security and your safety. But in the end, they will not win. We will not be silenced.

They will not win, because they are outnumbered. I truly believe that you and I are not alone in giving our voices to those who do not have a voice. On this day, across the world, many thousands of people, will pay tribute to writers and journalists, like yourself, who fearlessly speak the truths that others wish to hide. They stand with us. We stand with them.

Elena Poniatowska

Background

Paola Ugaz is one of the ten most important journalists in Peru, and the one that has received the greatest legal harassment in the recent years. She is a reporter for the ABC journal, a former correspondent for both the EFE and Europa Press news agencies, and she has been editor of various digital media. She has worked as an investigative journalist for IDL Reporteros, and collaborates in newspapers and magazines in Latin America such as Etiqueta Negra and Etiqueta Verde. Author of the books Punche Perú, about the stevedores in Lima and Chincaqkuna, los que se perdieron, sobre los desaparecidos de Perú, entre 1980 y 2000. In her work as an investigative journalist, Ugaz has researched issues regarding corruption, abuses of power and violations of human rights, among others.

In 2015, Pedro Salinas and Paola Ugaz published the book Half Monks, Half Soldiers (Mitad monjes, mitad soldados) (Planeta, 2015), in which it is revealed, through 30 testimonies and an investigation, that inside the religious movement of Peruvian origin, El Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana, there had been abuses and mistreatments. This work obliged the Sodalicio to carry out different internal investigative commissions, which resulted in the intervention of the Vatican in the organization in search of justice for the victims. In 2016, they were granted the National Prize for Journalism from the Press and Society Institute and the Prize for Journalism in Defense of Human Rights from the National Human Rights Coordinator.

In August 2018, both Ugaz and Pedro Salina received the first complaint for aggravated defamation filed by José Antonio Eguren, Archbishop of Pura y Tumbes, for publications linked to their investigations. Although the judge found Pedro Salina guilty of the charges, the complaint was dismissed and withdrawn a year later by the archbishop himself.

After Ugaz announced a new book (not yet published) on the management of the finances of the Sodalicio, she began to receive complaints and lawsuits from members of the religious group, the first lawsuit was filed by the Archbishop of Piura, Jose Antonio Eguren, member of the founding generation of the Sodalicio.

In October 2018, the complaint against Ugaz continued, and later on she received another complaint for having participated in an interview for the documentary Perú: el escándalo del Sodalicio (The solalitium scandal) for Al Jazeera television. The criminal lawsuit for participating in the documentary remains open. Nevertheless, Paola also received a new lawsuit for her participation in the documentary, in December 2019.

Amnesty International recognizes that the complaints against Ugaz have an effect that hampers the right to freedom of expression. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) also expressed its concern over the multiple criminal defamation lawsuits filed against the journalist Ugaz.

On 21 September 2020, the Ninth Criminal Court of Lima held , and on 27 October 2020 the judge >span class="Hyperlink0">accepted to initiate the trial against the journalist, in a hearing in which the presence of international observers was denied. The trial stems from a complaint filed by Luciano Revoredo Rojas, who claimed to be wronged by the journalist: Ugaz's claim was due to the fact that his children had been mentioned in a journalistic publication, while the accuser has published at least 24 editorials against her, some of which link her to illicit activities.

Days before the hearing, almost two thousand personalities of Perú signed the letter in favour Ugaz, including journalists, former congress men and women, chancellors and writers.

The letter reads: Ugaz has an impeccable track record in the defense of Human Rights and investigative journalism. Her work has exposed the sexual, physical and psychological abuses perpetrated by the religious organization Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana (SVC). Before the imminent publication of a second book on the finances of the religious organization that she investigated 10 years ago; legal and media harassment against Paola Ugaz continues to increase (…) In parallel to the legal harassment, some news dissemination platforms have started a campaign of aggravated defamation, which involves her children and her private life

While the judge's investigation was being carried out to decide whether to open a criminal proceeding against Paola Ugaz, on 2 October 2020 she was life threatened on her social media where, referring to her private life, she received messages such as “You are going to die you Red. The Peruvian Charlie Hebdo is coming, we are going to fumigate you with lead”.