Day of the Imprisoned Writer | PERU: Paola Ugaz

By | November 12, 2020 at 11:32 am | No comments | Campaigns | Tags: ,

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.

The following letter was written by the Mexican-Polish novelist Elena Poniatowska.

*******

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

Take Action for 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.

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
  • 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.

Send appeals to:

President of the Republic of Perú

Sr. Martín Vizcarra

e-mail. mvizcarra@presidencia.gob.pe

Tel. +51 3113900 ext. 7405

Twitter: @MartinVizcarraC @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

    1. @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/embassies-of/peru 

Tell others: share Paola’s case and her work

  • 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

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)

Photo credit: María García Burgos

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