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Open letter to the Brazilian authorities on charges against Glenn Greenwald

Friday 24 January 2020 - 5:00pm

Glenn Greenwald (left) | Credit: Robert O'Neill (Wikimedia Commons)

Update - 24 January 2020

'The move to bring charges against journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept is deeply concerning and a threat to press freedom everywhere.

'The Brazilian authorities’ claim that Greenwald’s activities constitute “cybercrimes” directly contradict a federal police report filed in December 2019, which not only cleared Greenwald of any wrongdoing, but went so far as to say he acted with “the highest level of professionalism, caution and responsibility.”

'This act reeks of retaliation against a journalist whose work has unearthed corruption in the current administration and is a shameless violation of press freedom. We call on the Brazilian authorities to drop the charges immediately.'

- Jennifer Clement, President, PEN International

Addressed to:

Presidente da República, Jair Bolsonaro

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 organisations, 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 criminalised 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 organisations penned a letter in July 2019 to denounce these threats. 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 jeopardise 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
Guardian News & Media
Human Rights Watch
IPANDETEC Centroamérica
Instituto Vladimir Herzog
International Press Institute
National Federation of Brazilian Journalists (FENAJ)
PEN International
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Roots Action
Sursiendo CCD
Ubunteam Community
Usuarios Digitales
World Association of News Publishers

*Glenn Greenwald serves as a member of the board of directors