Open Letter to Brazilian Authorities on the Charges Against Journalist Glenn Greenwald

A coalition of around 40 human rights and free speech NGOs have signed an open letter, organized by Freedom of the Press Foundation and Reporters Without Borders, addressed to the Brazilian authorities condemning the charges that the Brazilian federal prosecutor’s office has brought against US journalist Glenn Greenwald. The charges must be now be examined by a federal judge, who could dismiss them and thereby preserve press freedom in Brazil. The NGOs firmly condemn the intimidatory nature of such judicial procedures, which are designed to intimidate other journalists.

January 24, 2020

Addressed to:

Presidente da República, Jair Bolsonaro

Presidente da Câmara dos Deputados, Rodrigo F. Maia

Presidente do Senado, David Alcolumbre

Presidente do Supremo Tribunal Federal, Dias Toffoli


Procurador Geral da República, Augusto Aras

Corregedora Geral do MPF, Elizeta Maria de Paiva Ramos

Procuradora Federal dos Direitos dos Cidadãos, Deborah Duprat 

We, the undersigned press freedom and civil liberties organizations, emphatically condemn the Brazilian authorities’ criminal charges against the award-winning investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald.

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. 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 recently disclosed charges are only the most recent development in a campaign of harassment against journalists covering the scandal. Threats against them have been documented since last June, when The Intercept began publishing a series of important public interest stories based on a cache of leaked Telegram messages between public officials.

A coalition of 29 free speech and human rights organizations penned a letter in July 2019 to denounce these threats.1 Then, as now, the implications affect not just Greenwald and his colleagues, but the broader free press in Brazil, including both domestic and international media.

The attacks on Greenwald and The Intercept have included specific death threats, public disinformation, and a criminal prosecution. Notably, in August 2019, in a remarkable opinion by a member of Brazil’s highest court ordered any police investigation into Greenwald halted and condemned any such efforts as “an unambiguous act of censorship” in violation of the country’s constitution.

The right of journalists to report on primary source materials documenting official malfeasance is a critically important press freedom issue. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office has abused its power by charging Greenwald for doing just that — despite a federal police conclusion just last month that there was no evidence that Greenwald committed any crime in relation to the leaked messages.

Given the Supreme Court injunction and that federal police conclusion, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office’s position that Greenwald conspired to commit a crime with his anonymous source is 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. 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.


Freedom of the Press Foundation* 

Reporters Without Borders

Access Now

Agência Pública

American Civil Liberties Union 

ARTICLE 19 Brazil and South America 

Asociación por los Derechos Civiles 

Association for Progressive Communications (APC) 

Brave New Films 

Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) 


Columbia Journalism Review 

Committee to Protect Journalists 

Cooperativa Tierra Común 

Demand Progress 

Derechos Digitales 

Doc Society 

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) 


Fundación Acceso (Costa Rica) 

Fundación Ciudadania Inteligente

Fundación Datos Protegidos (Chile) 

Fundación Karisma 

Fundación Huaira (Ecuador) 

Fundación Vía Libre

Human Rights Watch 



IPANDETEC Centroamérica 

Instituto Vladimir Herzog 

International Press Institute 


National Federation of Brazilian Journalists (FENAJ) 


Observatório da Imprensa

Pen International

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press 

Roots Action

Sursiendo CCD


The Guardian

Ubunteam Community 

Usuarios Digitales 

World Association of News Publishers 


Published on
Updated on 27.01.2020