Activist and writer Glenn Greenwald has been charged with cybercrimes by the Brazilian government. That’s the gist of an unsettling new article by Ernesto Londoño at The New York Times — though the unsettling part has less to do with what Greenwald has been charged with and more to do with the nature of the charges themselves.
Alternately, when a government targets a journalist, it’s often the case that said government may have ulterior motives. That certainly seems to be the case here.
The investigation of Greenwald has been in the works for a while. An August 2019 Columbia Journalism Review article explored how Greenwald drew the ire of Brazil’s authoritarian right-wing government — beginning with a series of articles that ran last June in The Intercept.
The pieces appeared to supply evidence that Sergio Moro, Brazil’s Justice Minister and the former top judge in a major corruption investigation, colluded with federal prosecutors to convict prominent political figures—among them, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who had been leading 2018 election polls and was rendered ineligible to run.
The Brazilian government announced plans to target Greenwald as early as last summer, to widespread criticism. At the time, the nation’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Greenwald. According to the article in the Times, the police moved forward on their investigation due to the presence of audio recordings.
In a statement made to The Daily Beast, Greenwald made a convincing case that he was being targeted by the government. “This denunciation — 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,” he said.
These charges set an unsettling precedent for press freedoms — both in this specific case and for journalists across the globe.
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