I wrote this for the EFF blog, and am cross-posting an excerpt here.
This week, prosecutors in Brazil filed a criminal complaint against Glenn Greenwald, an internationally lauded journalist best known for publishing leaked documents detailing the NSA’s mass surveillance. Greenwald’s prosecution is an attempt to use computer crime law to silence an investigative reporter who exposed deep-seated government corruption. Sadly, this isn’t the first such effort and, unless we stop this drift to criminalizing journalism, it likely won’t be the last.
Greenwald has faced a prolonged and complicated legal standoff in Brazil since he published documents showing that a federal judge in Brazil colluded with prosecutors to convict former leftist president Lula da Silva. That conviction was crucial to preventing da Silva from running in the last election, which was instrumental in Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro successfully ascending to power. Greenwald published private chat conversations, audio recordings, videos, photos, court proceedings, and other documentation provided by an anonymous source showing, among other things, the collusion between prosecutors and the judge, who has since been appointed as Brazil’s top judicial minister.
Since those articles were published, Greenwald and his family have dealt with legal threats (including a statement from President Bolsonaro that Greenwald could “do jail time”), death threats, and homophobic persecution.
Unfortunately, legal prosecution and character attacks are familiar tools used to silence investigative journalists who expose corruption. The use of cybercrime laws to do so, however, is relatively new. This case is garnering special international attention in part because the current charges fly in the face of a decision by the Supreme Court of Brazil last year, in which the Court preemptively halted investigations against Greenwald. That decision upheld the rights of journalists to communicate directly with their sources, and stated that Greenwald’s acts deserved constitutional protection—regardless of the content published, or its impact on government interests. Continue reading “When Computer Crimes Are Used To Silence Journalists”