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Peru: Author Paola Ugaz at risk of arrest for her books and research

Thursday 20 January 2022 - 10:00am

Peru: Author Paola Ugaz at risk of arrest for her books and research

Update - 8 February 2022

On 26 January 2022, Judge Rómulo Chira of the Ninth Criminal Court of the Superior Court of Lima acquitted journalist Paola Ugaz of the defamation lawsuit brought against her by Luciano Revoredo.

Revoredo, director of the conservative news portal La Abeja, sued Ugaz in September 2020, seeking 53,000 dollars in reparations and her imprisonment for three years, in retaliation for her investigations into the Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana.

One of the arguments of the sentence is that Ugaz did not have the "intent to defame" when she discussed, in a couple of television interviews on La Abeja's website, opinion columns in which she was the recipient of "denigrating adjectives".

Ugaz still faces two lawsuits: one for having contributed to the documentary "The Sodalitium Scandal", and another for alleged money laundering brought by Luciano Revoredo and José Edgardo Palomino.

PEN International welcomes the Peruvian authorities' ruling in favour of Ugaz and calls for the dismissal of the other lawsuits against the journalist, which are aimed at silencing her.

RAN 01/2022

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

In February 2021, Ugaz was served a lawsuit that could land her in prison. Ugaz's case is part of a sophisticated system in Peru where powerful groups use the courts as whips to silence journalists by fabricating criminal allegations against them.

PEN International considers that the charges, lawsuits, threats and ongoing harassment against Ugaz are violating her right to freedom of expression, as well as her civil and political rights. PEN calls on the Peruvian authorities to dismiss the lawsuits against her and to cease immediately the harassment Ugaz faces for her work as a journalist, editor and writer.

Please, send appeals to the Peruvian authorities:

  • Expressing deep concern about Ugaz’s charges, lawsuits, threats and ongoing harassment, which are in relation to her work.
  • Calling for a halt to the judicial proceedings against Ugaz, considering that the complaints and prosecution are intended to stop her investigations and prevent the publication of her books, as well as to impose a chilling effect on other writers and journalists, and prevent them from exercising their right to freedom of expression.
  • Calling upon the Peruvian authorities to repeal criminal defamation legislation, which is still in force in Peru. Such legislation impedes the exercise of citizens' rights to information and to hold their governments to account. It also limits the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, and therefore erodes the work of writers, journalists and editors.

Send appeals to:

President of the Republic of Peru

Sr. Pedro Castillo

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 – Peru

Judiciary of Peru

Judge Elvia Barrios Alvarado

President of the Judiciary

Email: ebarrios@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 Peru in your own country. Embassy addresses may be found here: https://www.embassy-worldwide.com/country/peru/

Publicity:

We encourage PEN members to:

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

Please find some useful materials below, in English and Spanish:

IWMF Courage 2021

A espaldas del Vaticano, el Sodalicio saca su dinero de Perú para no reparar a los sobrevivientes

El Vaticano espera las explicaciones del Sodalicio con el fin de garantizar las reparaciones

Fundador del Sodalicio, Luis Figari, vende su lujosa residencia en Lima para no reparar a sus víctimas

Please inform PEN International of any action you take or any response you get.

Background

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 (yet 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. In October 2020, she received a death threat on her Instagram account and a new hearing was held, in which the judge decided to open a judicial process against her. 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, who accused Ugaz of aggravated defamation.

(See Action on Day of the Imprisoner Writer Campaign 2020 – Paola Ugaz)

Furthermore, in November 2020, Carlos Alberto Gomez de la Torre Pretell, a ‘Sodalicio’ employee, sued Ugaz for defamation following her participation in a 40-second statement, broadcast by Al Jazeera in a documentary titled "The Sodalitium Scandal."

For a long time, Ugaz has been the target of a smear and disinformation campaign in relation to her work as a journalist where, without any evidence, she is linked to alleged criminal networks, money laundering, uranium and plutonium trading, among others. She is also the target of harassment, including the publication of private data about her children, who are minors, and about her colleague Pedro Salinas, co-author of the book.

Ugaz is currently facing defamation suits by Revoredo Rojas and Gómez de la Torre, and is being investigated by the Prosecutor's Office as the head of a money laundering network.

Paola Ugaz could face preventive detention, imprisonment or a ban on leaving her country.

For more information, please contact Alicia Quiñones, Americas Programme Coordinator, at PEN International, email: alicia.quinones@pen-international.org