Journalist Glenn Greenwald’s feud with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his administration has him in hot water, and he is now facing criminal charges for his reporting of hacked chat transcripts.
Prosecutors are accusing Greenwald of being apart of a “criminal organization” that hacked into the phones of top Brazilian officials. This stems from reporting conducted by The Intercept Brasil, a publication co-founded by Greenwald, which featured leaked cellphone chats from former judge and current Bolsonaro justice minister Sérgio Moro and prosecutors who worked on the “Operation Car Wash” investigation.
Greenwald believes that right-wing forces conspired to jail former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, paving the way for Bolsonaro to take power. Lula is now once again a free man, absolved from the corruption in which he was convicted by a Supreme Court ruling. He may consider a run against Bolsonaro in the next national election.
Greenwald is calling the charges levied against him “an obvious attempt to attack a free press in retaliation for the revelations we reported about Minister Moro and the Bolsonaro government,” but Brazilian authorities claim that Greenwald’s publication aided and abetted criminal activity that exploited to form the basis of the controversial report.
Prosecutors claim that Greenwald communicated with the hackers while they were committing their crimes, and advised them on ways to cover their tracks. Greenwald moved to Brazil in 2005 to marry his homosexual lover David Miranda, who was elected to the Brazilian Congress last year.
In an attempt to protect Greenwald’s press freedoms, Judge Gilmar Mendes issued an order last year barring federal police from investigating Greenwald’s role in the hacking operation. Prosecutors claim that the finding of new evidence – audio messages that allegedly show Greenwald involved in criminal activity – essentially invalidated the Judge’s order.
Greenwald rose to become one of the world’s most noteworthy journalists after he published the extent of the NSA’s surveillance capacity after receiving leaks from whistle-blower Edward Snowden in 2013. He has understood for quite some time that his fearless style of reporting may ultimately result in severe consequences.
“This is the kind of risk that you take on if you want to be not just a journalist, but the kind of journalist that confronts power. So, of course, the risks aren’t fun, but at the same time it’s very gratifying to feel like you’re using the guarantee of a free press for what it’s for, which is shining a light on the corrupt acts carried out in the dark by the society’s most powerful actors,” Greenwald said to Democracy Now.
Digital freedom advocates are speaking out against the charges levied against Greenwald by the Brazilian government.
“In free societies, journalists play an important role in challenging and criticizing governmental officials and scrutinizing their actions and policies. It is a threat to democracy when authorities use cybercrime laws to punish their critics, as the Brazilian government has done here with Glenn Greenwald, and it discourages journalists from using technology to best serve the public,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in an official statement.
“The United States must immediately condemn this outrageous assault on the freedom of the press, and recognize that its attacks on press freedoms at home have consequences for American journalists doing their jobs abroad,” said Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project.