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January 22, 2020 - Updated on January 28, 2020

Decision to charge Greenwald is a “unjustified reprisal,” RSF says

Source: EVARISTO SA / AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns yesterday’s decision by Brazilian federal prosecutors to charge Glenn Greenwald, a US investigative reporter resident in Brazil and co-founder of the The Intercept Brasil news website, with having “directly assisted, encouraged and guided” six alleged hackers. RSF says the accusations constitute an unjustified reprisal for The Intercept Brasil’s exposé – based on the details of online chats – of collusion between the judge and prosecutors in a huge anti-corruption investigation known as Operation Car Wash.

The federal prosecutor’s office charged Greenwald and the six alleged hackers in connection with an investigation into the hacking of information from the mobile phones of senior Brazilian officials in 2019.


Federal prosecutor Wellington Oliveira accused Greenwald of having “directly assisted, encouraged and guided” the hackers on the grounds that he advised them to delete the messages they sent him, so that he could not be linked to the hacking. This claim is based on a conversation between him and one of the hackers that was found on a computer seized by the police


But this same conversation previously led the federal police to conclude, in a report published in December, that Greenwald had adopted a “careful and distant posture regarding the execution” of the alleged hacks. And a Brazilian supreme court ruling in August upheld the constitutional right of journalists to protect their sources.


The accusations against Glenn Greenwald are absurd and unwarranted, and contradict previous decisions,” RSF’s Latin America bureau said. “The federal prosecutor is basing them on a conversation in which this journalist simply expressed a concern about preserving the anonymity of his sources, as any journalist would. These accusations can be seen as reprisal against the staff of The Intercept Brasil for their revelations about flaws within Brazil’s judicial and political apparatus.”


Last June, The Intercept Brasil began publishing a series of reports about serious irregularities in the Operation Car Wash investigation, including details of chats between prosecutors and judicial officials that were obtained thanks to an anonymous source, Greenwald said. 


In particular, the chats show that Sérgio Moro, the judge trying the case (who is now Brazil’s justice minister), cooperated closely with the lead prosecutor and with all the Operation Car Wash investigators.


The Intercept Brasil’s reports triggered a wave of online attacks against Greenwald, his family and colleagues, especially the website’s journalists. Last July, President Jair Bolsonaro said Greenwald “could be jailed.”


Brazil is ranked 105th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.