(New York, NY) – The news that investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald has been charged with cyber crimes in relation to his reporting on Brazilian government corruption raises serious concerns that he may be the target of politically motivated retaliation for his investigative reporting work. PEN America today said that would represent a deeply alarming attack on press freedom in Brazil.

“It is impossible to separate these charges against Glenn from his work as an investigative reporter,” said PEN America’s senior director of free expression programs Summer Lopez. “While we don’t know all the contours of this story, we do know two things. First, Glenn’s reporting has deeply embarrassed the Brazilian government. Second, Brazil’s president has repeatedly and consistently attacked the press in general and Glenn in particular. As such, It’s hard to take these charges at face value.”

On Tuesday, a Brazilian federal prosecutor filed a criminal complaint alleging that Greenwald assisted and encouraged hackers to access online chats between federal prosecutors and others in connection to a major governmental anti-corruption investigation. Last May, Greenwald’s investigative reporting outlet The Intercept published reports suggesting the country’s now-justice minister improperly advised prosecutors in a corruption trial targeting Brazil’s former president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. That triggered a public outcry and prompted the country’s supreme court to re-consider da Silva’s appeal.

“It’s hard to conceive that this is anything but a politically motivated attack in retaliation for Greenwald’s work to expose government corruption,” said PEN America’s Lopez. “Press freedom in Brazil is already in a precarious state; we hope that the judge evaluating this criminal complaint understands the stakes and weighs in on the side of a free press.”

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has reportedly previously threatened to jail Greenwald—a public critic of the Bolsonaro administration—for  his work. More broadly, Bolsonaro’s government has led a diminution of press freedoms within the country. 


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, [email protected], +1 202 309 8892