A coalition of more than 40 press freedom and human rights groups from across the globe sent a letter Friday to Brazilian authorities condemning cybercrime charges brought against American investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald earlier this week as a clear intimidation effort for his reporting on key members of President Jair Bolsonaro’s government.
“These charges represent a straightforward attempt to intimidate and retaliate against Greenwald and The Intercept for their critical reporting.”
Greenwald, who co-founded The Intercept, lives in Rio de Janeiro with his husband, Brazilian Congressman David Miranda, and their family. The letter (pdf) initiated by Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) and Freedom of the Press Foundation echoes journalists, politicians, and advocates worldwide who have expressed support for Greenwald since Tuesday.
“These charges represent a straightforward attempt to intimidate and retaliate against Greenwald and The Intercept for their critical reporting on messages that appeared to show a judge advising federal prosecutors how to prosecute cases he was presiding over in the ‘Operation Car Wash’ investigation,” the letter says. “Further, by charging Greenwald with a cybercrime the government has essentially criminalized engaging in legitimate journalistic practices, which threatens to have a chilling effect on journalists and sources alike.”
The charges against Greenwald are part of a broader “campaign of harassment against journalists covering the scandal,” explains the letter. Since June 2019, when the online outlet began reporting on leaked messages exchanged by public officials, “attacks on Greenwald and The Intercept have included specific death threats, public disinformation, and a criminal prosecution.”
Noting an August 2019 injunction from the Brazilian Supreme Court and a conclusion from federal police last month that Greenwald has not committed any crime related to the messages, the letter declares that “the Federal Prosecutor’s Office has abused its power by charging Greenwald” and denounces the office’s position as “unjustifiable.”
“These charges await approval from a federal judge, giving the courts the opportunity to reject them and protect freedom of the press. Even so, the chilling effect of such legal intimidation remains,” concludes the letter. “If these tactics are allowed to stand, it would jeopardize all Brazilians’ freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to participate in democracy.”
Other signatories to the letter include Access Now, the ACLU, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism, CodePink, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Demand Progress, Human Rights Watch, the International Press Institute, RootsAction, and the World Association of News Publishers. Greenwald sits on the board of directors for Freedom of the Press Foundation.
Greenwald, who has not been detained, vowed Tuesday that “we will not be intimidated.” In a fundraising email to readers of The Intercept, the journalist said Friday that he has been “deeply humbled by the outpouring of support” and called the criminal complaint “retaliation for our reporting on the misconduct of senior officials in the Bolsonaro government.”
“Our legal team is confident that we’ll defeat the baseless accusation that I committed cybercrimes,” Greenwald wrote. “The Bolsonaro government and the movement that supports it has made repeatedly clear that it does not believe in basic press freedoms, but we will not be intimidated by their tyrannical attempts to silence journalists.”