Federal prosecutors in Brazil have charged US journalist Glenn Greenwald with allegedly orchestrating the hacking of communications from senior government officials and prosecutors in the nation’s long-running Lava Jato corruption investigation.
Mr Greenwald was charged on Tuesday alongside six others, in a development likely to fuel concerns about freedom of the press at a time of heightened anxiety about Jair Bolsonaro’s rightwing government.
“We will not be intimidated by these tyrannical attempts to silence journalists,” said Mr Greenwald, who rose to prominence in 2013 for publishing classified files disclosed by US security contractor Edward Snowden. He currently resides in Brazil.
The charges come amid a stream of reports from The Intercept, a left-leaning media group founded by Mr Greenwald, that appear to show collusion between prosecutors and judges in the Lava Jato, or Car Wash, corruption probe.
For much of the past decade, the investigation has dominated headlines in Brazil, with scores of politicians and businesspeople arrested in a sprawling kickbacks-for-contracts scheme.
In recent years, critics have claimed that prosecutors have over-reached and that the probe had become politicised.
The articles published by The Intercept were based on mobile phone communications that the media group says were leaked. Government officials and federal police have claimed that the communications were instead hacked.
In a statement, federal police said the seven people were charged for “criminal organisation, money laundering, as well as telephone interceptions”.
They said that Mr Greenwald had “helped, encouraged and guided the group during the invasions”.
The other individuals charged do not work for The Intercept.
Mr Greenwald has faced investigation by authorities since June last year when The Intercept published messages apparently showing collusion between prosecutors and Sérgio Moro, the judge who oversaw the Lava Jato investigation and now serves as justice minister in the Bolsonaro administration.
In that instance, the messages appeared to show Mr Moro guiding Deltan Dallagnol, a prosecutor, in a case against former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
On Tuesday, Mr Greenwald said Mr Moro was now “using his position” to attack political enemies.
“This is an attack against the free press and against supreme court, who said that I cannot be investigated, much less charged, because it is a violation of the constitution clause under the free press,” he said.
“This is retaliation from the Bolsonaro government, and we will not be intimidated by someone abusing the state apparatus,” he added.
Concerns about the freedom of the press in Brazil have been growing after the inauguration last year of Mr Bolsonaro, who frequently criticises media groups that do not support him.
In an interview on Monday, Mr Moro described The Intercept leaks as a “silly thing” that did not warrant attention.
Additional reporting by Carolina Pulice