While the spotlight is focused on Julian Assange, another reporter is also facing persecution against freedom of press, writes Dr John Jiggens.
FOR THE PAST SIX YEARS, I have reported on the legal persecution and silencing of Julian Assange. Now another prominent investigative journalist is facing similar legal persecution and silencing. Glenn Greenwald is a U.S. investigative reporter, now living in Brazil, who won a Pulitzer Prize and several other major journalism awards for his revelations about the U.S. and British global surveillance systems in his book, ‘No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the U.S. Surveillance State’, based on classified documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
On 21January 2020, Brazilian prosecutors charged Greenwald with cybercrimes, alleging he was part of a criminal organisation that hacked the cellphones of prosecutors and other officials. This was in response to a series of damning articles Greenwald wrote on the online site he founded, The Intercept Brasil, that detailed the judicial abuses that led to the jailing of Lula da Silva, the popular Workers Party candidate for president before the 2018 Brazilian election, which cleared the way for the election of the far Right Jair Bolsonaro by removing a far more popular rival. The jailing of Lula was a massive event in Brazilian politics — the nearest example to it in Australian politics would be Whitlam’s 1975 Dismissal.
Greenwald called the cybercrime charges an obvious attempt to attack free press in retaliation for the information revealed in The Intercept articles of the questionable behaviour of Sergio Moro, the judge who imprisoned Lula da Silva and who was rewarded by Bolsonaro who appointed him Justice Minister. The Intercept Brasil stories were based on telegram chats between the prosecutors and Moro, given by an anonymous source, that showed Lula was unfairly targeted for political purposes.
The allegation that Greenwald helped in the hack forms the basis for the cybercrimes charge. Greenwald strenuously denies this and calls the cybercrime charges a clear misdirection to take the heat off the judge and the prosecutors concerned. As in the Assange case, a journalist is being subjected to the misuse of the legal system by powerful state agencies as a punishment for exposing corruption.
The Intercept Brasil stated:
The public interest in reporting this material has been obvious from the start. These documents revealed serious, systematic, and sustained improprieties and possible illegality by Brazil’s current Minister of Justice and Public Security Sergio Moro while he was a judge, as well as by the chief prosecutor of the Car Wash investigation, Deltan Dallagnol and other members of that investigative task force. It was the Car Wash task force, which Moro presided over as a judge, that was responsible for prosecuting ex-President Lula da Silva and removing him from the 2018 election, paving the way for the far-Right Jair Bolsonaro to become president...
As the revelations of corruption by Moro and Dallagnol grew – reported both by us and our journalistic partners in Brazil – those officials resorted to the tactics used by government officials everywhere when their improprieties are revealed in the press: They tried to distract attention away from their own misconduct by fixating on the actions of the source as well as the journalists who revealed their wrongdoing.
This is part of a disturbing trend — investigative journalists like Greenwald and Assange are suffering increasing attack from authoritarian governments. The U.S. Government has rearrested whistleblower Chelsea Manning, while Edward Snowden is safe only because he is in exile from his own country. Meanwhile in Australia, the Australian Federal Police have carried out a raid on the ABC over a report on Afghan war crimes and another whistleblower is prosecuted for exposing the Australian Government’s illegal spying on East Timor.
Behind these persecutions lies the invisible hand of the Security State, using the secrecy laws to persecute and disable investigative journalism. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a hostile, non-State intelligence agency, but online magazines like The Intercept, WikiLeaks and Independent Australia pride themselves on being non-State intelligence agencies in the Information Age, practicing classic, public interest journalism, who defend the whistleblowers that the deep state represses.
A free press is a pillar of any democracy because it is one of the few tools for shining a light on the corrupt acts carried out by society’s most powerful actors in the dark. That’s precisely why those same powerful actors so frequently want to punish journalists for doing our jobs, as Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and his Minister of Justice and Public Security Sergio Moro have been explicitly threatening to do in response to our exposés.
Meanwhile, Julian Assange's extradition trial begins on 24 February, but the schedule has changed because both sets of lawyers argued they had insufficient time to prepare. The extradition trial will run for the last week in February and then be suspended until 18 May when the trial is scheduled to run another three weeks. As the trial approaches, Assange’s jail conditions have improved following a protest by his fellow prisoners over his isolation.
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