Freedom of the press under attack as Greenwald charged

. Jan 22, 2020
glenn greenwald indicted hacker 2017 Glenn Greenwald at the 2017 Allard Prize Ceremony. Photo: Martin Dee/WikiCommons

This newsletter is for PREMIUM subscribers only. Become one now!

Good morning! We’re covering the latest attack on press freedoms, with journalist Glenn Greenwald charged with cybercrimes. Brazil to allow foreign government contractors. And the charges against those responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters in Brazilian history. (This newsletter is for premium subscribers only. Become one now!)

Greenwald indictment dangerous for press freedoms

A federal prosecutor

presented charges of criminal association and phone tapping against American journalist Gleen Greenwald for his role in the so-called &#8220;Car Wash leaks,&#8221; a series of reports of private messages exchanged by Operation Car Wash investigators and former Federal Judge Sergio Moro. The leaks showed that Mr. Moro—who currently serves as Justice Minister—guided prosecutors throughout the investigation, sparking criticism that he failed to act as a neutral umpire, as judges should.</p> <p><strong>Context.</strong> Last year, Mr. Greenwald&#8217;s <em>The Intercept Brasil</em> began publishing the leaked private messages, raising suspicions that Mr. Moro had tipped the scales in favor of prosecutors against many defendants—including former President Lula. Federal Police marshals say the messages were obtained by a gang that operated a credit card fraud operation—which ended up <a href="">hacking the cell phones of up to 1,000 A-list authorities</a>—but never investigated Mr. Greenwald.</p> <p><strong>The accusation.</strong> In a 95-page document, the prosecutor says Mr. Greenwald &#8220;directly helped, incentivized, and guided&#8221; the hackers—and that the journalist obtained &#8220;financial gain&#8221; from it.</p> <p><strong>Fragile case. </strong>The charges are based on only one piece of evidence—a transcripted dialogue between Mr. Greenwald and one of the hackers. While it suggests Mr. Greenwald knew about the circumstances in which the messages were obtained, at no point does it show the journalist as an active contributor to the crimes. Criminal law expert Welington Arruda told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> the accusation &#8220;doesn&#8217;t make sense and goes against Brazilian law, as no one can be accused of criminal association just because they know a crime has been committed.&#8221;</p> <p><strong>Not the first.</strong> Last year, prosecutors had already taken a shot at <em>The Intercept</em>&#8216;s founder, reportedly asking for the money laundering enforcement agency to <a href="">scrutinize his financial statements</a>.</p> <p><strong>Bottom line.</strong> The prosecutor&#8217;s rationale would make investigative journalism nearly impossible in Brazil.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>While the accusation is not expected to be upheld by courts, it shows how attacks on freedoms of speech have been emboldened in recent times. So far, these intimidation attempts have been barred, but they create a climate that could ultimately allow the use of the legal system to attack opponents and journalists.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>One year later, prosecutors present charges on collapsed dam case</h2> <p>State prosecutors of Minas Gerais have finally presented charges on the case of the Brumadinho tailings dam collapse—which killed 259 people and left 11 missing in January 2019. Prosecutors want mining giant Vale—the owner of the dam—and German audit firm Tüv Süd—which attested to its safety, despite glaring evidence of the contrary—to be held liable for the tragedy. Sixteen executives, including former Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman, were also charged.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The Brumadinho disaster was not Vale&#8217;s first. In the town of Mariana in November 2015, another tailings dam partially owned by the company spilled the equivalent of 25,000 Olympic swimming pools of toxic sludge, destroying entire towns and resulting in 19 deaths. Nobody has been punished so far. Until that changes, companies will know that crime does pay.</p> <p><strong>The disaster.</strong> On January 25, 2019, a dam collapsed in the town of Brumadinho, spilling billions of liters of tailings into the surrounding area. Over 133 hectares of Atlantic Forest were covered in a wave of sludge, which has since reached the São Francisco River—the waterway responsible for 70 percent of available freshwater in the Northeast, the aridest region in the country.</p> <p><strong>The accusations.</strong> Prosecutors pressed charges of environmental crimes and first-degree murder (when there is the intention to kill). That&#8217;s because evidence shows that Vale knew about the dam&#8217;s &#8220;unacceptable safety conditions&#8221; and chose to continue operating it—thus accepting the risks of a tragedy.</p> <p><strong>Markets won&#8217;t care. </strong>After news of the indictment broke, Vale shares dropped 2.32 percent yesterday. But history shows that the company&#8217;s stock is more related to international iron ore prices than its death toll. It took less than a year for Vale to <a href="">recover its market value</a> after Mariana, and just about a year after Brumadinho.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/1268417"></div><script src=""></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Brazil to allow foreign firms as government contractors</h2> <p>The Brazilian government has decided to sign the Agreement on Government Procurement (<a href="">GPA</a>), an international treaty that aims, under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, to level the playing field between foreign and local firms in bidding processes for government contracts.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The GPA also allows Brazilian companies to be awarded government contracts in the other 20 signatory countries. Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said he hopes for increased investment flows and better integration into global business chains. He also expects that, by increasing competition among possible contractors, public spending will fall significantly.</p> <p><strong>Risks. </strong>The possible impact on Brazilian companies whose revenue is heavily reliant on government contracts remains unknown. Moreover, it allows for the entry of international cartels into the Brazilian market.</p> <p><strong>Time to adapt.</strong> Companies that might be affected by the GPA will have time to vary their revenue sources, however. Even if a political decision has been made, it will take years until the rules are effectively implemented. In Australia, for example, if took almost five years, according to government officials.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <p><strong>Davos.</strong> Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said &#8220;poverty is the environment&#8217;s worst enemy.&#8221; Experts, however, say poor people are the biggest victims of the consequences of deforestation—not its perpetrators. Data editor Marcelo Soares showed that businessmen and politicians make up the list of the <a href="">top 10 environmental criminals</a>, according to the Brazilian government.</p> <p><strong>Agribusiness.</strong> The Brazilian government <a href="">altered the rules</a> to evaluate the performance of its agricultural attachés, of which there are 24 spread around the world. These professionals, known as &#8220;ambassadors of Brazil&#8217;s agribusiness sector&#8221;—as they are charged with promoting agro exports—must present action plans and a report of their activities every three months for evaluation. Otherwise, they could have their mission terminated. It is the first time any punishment is foreseen for attachés.</p> <p><strong>Investments.</strong> Abu Dhabi&#8217;s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala is reportedly set to increase its position in Brazil—mainly through investments in the entertainment and sports segments. The fund is expected to bid for the concession of the 158-acre Ibirapuera Park Complex. The winner of this bidding process will be charged with constructing a 20,000-capacity arena fit to host basketball games, with one eye on attracting the NBA. Local authorities expect the new venue to become the &#8220;Brazilian Madison Square Garden.&#8221; With BRL 250 million in revenue last year, Mubadala&#8217;s IMM Creative Marketing firm is also in talks to head the organization of <a href="">Formula 1 races in São Paulo</a>.</p> <p><strong>Culture.</strong> Actress Regina Duarte starts today as Brazil&#8217;s new Culture Secretary, replacing Roberto Alvim, fired last week after publishing a video in which he <a href="">paraphrased Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels</a>. Ms. Duarte will start what she called a &#8220;trial period,&#8221; getting to know the secretariat&#8217;s structure. She became famous for starring in many soap operas at TV Globo—which President Bolsonaro sees as his enemy—and was known in the 1970s as &#8220;Brazil&#8217;s sweetheart.&#8221;

Read the full story NOW!

Our content is protected by copyright. Want to republish The Brazilian Report? Email us at