A growing chorus of support for journalist Glenn Greenwald against criminal charges related to his reporting on the right-wing government of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is demanding the prosecution be shelved and that Greenwald’s reporting be allowed to continue without interference.
“This is unbelievably naked retaliation for revealing extreme corruption at the highest levels of Bolsonaro’s administration, and an existential threat to investigative journalism in Brazil,” tweeted NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who called the charges against Greenwald “an absolute red alert.”
Greenwald was charged with cybercrime relating to his reporting with The Intercept Brasil on the Bolsonaro government, particularly Justice Minister Sérgio Moro.
“This accusation—brought by the same prosecutor who just tried and failed to criminally prosecute the head of the Brazilian Bar Association for criticizing Minister Moro—is an obvious attempt to attack a free press in retaliation for the revelations we reported about Minister Moro and the Bolsonaro government,” Greenwald said in a statement.
“We will not be intimidated by these tyrannical attempts to silence journalists,” he added. “I am working right now on new reporting and will continue to do so.”
The Intercept Brasil issued a newsroom statement against the charges in the same press release.
“The Bolsonaro government has repeatedly made it clear that it does not believe in basic press freedoms,” The Intercept Brasil said. “Today’s announcement that a criminal complaint has been filed against Intercept co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald is the latest example of journalists facing serious threats in Brazil.”
Greenwald’s most explosive piece of reporting on the Bolsonaro government involved revelations about “Operation Car Wash,” a scheme by now-Justice Minister Sérgio Moro that targeted left-wing members of the Brazilian body politic, including former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is known as “Lula.”
Lula tweeted his support for Greenwald on Tuesday.
“All my solidarity to journalist Glenn Greenwald, who was a victim of another blatant abuse of authority against freedom of press and democracy,” said Lula.
As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, reports of the charges sparked immediate condemnation from Freedom of the Press Foundation executive director Trevor Timm, Ben Wizner of the ACLU, and others. Timm expanded on his criticism of the Bolsonaro government in a column for the Guardian Wednesday, saying the decision to charge Greenwald “reeks of authoritarianism.”
“It should be clear to anyone—no matter their political persuasion—that the Bolsonaro administration is taking these actions in a purely retaliatory manner in an attempt to criminalize journalism,” wrote Timm.
Greenwald also had the support of the New York Times editorial board, which in a scathing opinion piece Tuesday bemoaned the fact that “assailing a free and critical press has become a cornerstone of the new breed of illiberal leaders in Brazil, as in the United States and elsewhere around the world.”
“Mr. Greenwald’s articles did what a free press is supposed to do,” wrote the Times. “They revealed a painful truth about those in power.”
“Puncturing the heroic image of Mr. Moro was obviously a shock for Brazilians, and damaging to Mr. Bolsonaro, but demanding that defenders of the law be scrupulous in their adherence to it is essential for democracy,” the Times continued. “Attacking the bearers of that message is a serious disservice and a dangerous threat to the rule of law.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, also took to Twitter to express support for Greenwald.
“The free press is never more important than when it exposes wrongdoing by the powerful,” said Sanders. “That is why President Bolsonaro is threatening Glenn Greenwald for the ‘crime’ of doing journalism.”
In an interview on the charges with New Yorker writer Isaac Chotiner published Wednesday, Greenwald said his prosecution was part of an ongoing assault on the press by the Bolsonaro government.
“Sometimes it is hard to convey to Western observers just how blunt and direct of a threat is being posed by the current government of Brazil to basic democratic freedoms,” Greenwald said. “Bolsonaro’s son, in the past couple of months, has threatened to revive the worst dictatorship through decree and do things like shut down media outlets.”
“I think my case is reflective of the sentiment that they just want to put journalists in prison,” said Greenwald.
Main Image: Glenn Greenwald speaking at the Young Americans for Liberty’s Civil Liberties tour at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. | Gage Skidmore