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'Not Good Enough': After Judge's Ruling, Greenwald Vows to Take Press Freedom Case to Brazil's Supreme Court

"We want a clear ruling from the Supreme Court that will enduringly protect the right of a free press against further assaults from the Bolsonaro government."

Glenn Greenwald

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept, gestures during a hearing at the Lower House's Human Rights Commission in Brasilia, Brazil on June 25, 2019. (Photo: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images)

Award-winning American investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald welcomed a Brazilian judge's decision Thursday to reject cybercrime charges that federal prosecutors brought against him last month but also promised to keep fighting against assaults on press freedom by the right-wing government of Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro.

The Intercept co-founder responded to the judge's decision with videos in both English and Portuguese posted to Twitter. "It's obviously good news, but not good enough for us," Greenwald explained. "Our lawyers are now going to go to the Brazilian Supreme Court and seek a much broader ruling."

"We don't just want to win on procedural grounds; we want a clear ruling from the Supreme Court that any attempt to criminalize my journalism or my relationship with my sources is a grave assault on core press freedoms guaranteed by the Brazilian constitution," Greenwald added. "We want a clear ruling from the Supreme Court that will enduringly protect the right of a free press against further assaults from the Bolsonaro government."

Greenwald lives in Rio de Janeiro with his husband, Brazilian Congressman David Miranda, and their two children. Their family has faced mounting threats from Bolsonaro's "vitriolic anti-LGBTQ+" and "authoritarian, dictatorship-supporting movement," culminating in the cybercrime charges. Human rights and press freedom groups called the charges "a straightforward attempt to intimidate and retaliate against Greenwald and The Intercept for their critical reporting" on key government officials.

In the video Thursday, Greenwald, who worked as a constitutional attorney in the U.S. for a decade before entering journalism, also vowed that The Intercept will continue to report on the archive that provoked the criminal charges and thanked everyone from around the world who has expressed support and solidarity with him and his colleagues in Brazil.

Murtaza Hussain reported on the limitations of the judge's decision for The Intercept:

Judge Ricardo Augusto Soares Leite ruled that Greenwald's prosecution would not go forward, but only on account of a previous finding by the Brazilian Supreme Court that The Intercept's reporting on Operation Car Wash had not transgressed any legal boundaries. In the absence of the injunction issued by a Supreme Court minister that prohibited investigations into Greenwald related to this case, Leite said he would have let the charges against Greenwald move forward. The judge also said that, if the Supreme Court injunction were to be overturned, he would be open to charging Greenwald.

"I decline, for now, to receive the complaint against GLENN GREENWALD, due to the controversy over the extent of the injunction granted by Minister Gilmar Mendes in ADPF nº 601, on 08/24/2019," Leite wrote, referring to the ruling by Mendes, a Supreme Court minister.

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Betsy Reed, The Intercept's editor-in-chief, welcomed the judge's ruling while noting that it "is narrow and procedural."

"There remains enormous pressure to prosecute Glenn in retaliation for his work on The Intercept's Secret Brazil Archive series," she said. "We will continue to fight for the complete exoneration Glenn deserves, and for the rights of all journalists to exercise the freedoms they are entitled to under the Brazilian constitution."

Responding to the news on Twitter, the Americas Program of the Committee to Protect Journalists also welcomed the judge's ruling and declared that "Brazilian authorities must respect press freedom and stop criminalizing journalists."

Earlier Thursday, human rights experts with the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released a joint statement in which they raised alarm about the charges brought against Greenwald, disclosed that they were in contact with Brazilian authorities regarding the case, and demanded that criminal investigations not be used to threaten journalistic work.

"Legal threats like these put all reporting in Brazil at risk," said David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. "Journalists who investigate cases of corruption or improper actions by public authorities should not be subjected to judicial or any other types of harassment in retaliation for their work."

Edison Lanza, special rapporteur for freedom of expression at IACHR, added that "criminal charges of this nature can also have a general chilling effect on press investigations. In the case of any measure that may affect the exercise of freedom of expression, states must ensure that restrictions are provided by law, serve one of the legitimate interests recognized by international law, and are necessary and proportionate to protect that interest."

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