Rights groups defend journalist Greenwald after threats in Brazil

US journalist Glenn Greenwald, founder and editor of The Intercept website, says he has received "grotesque" threats targeting his husband and children since his team began publishing leaked chats from Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro

Dozens of rights groups threw their support behind American journalist Glenn Greenwald Wednesday, after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro branded him a "militant" and suggested he could do jail time.

Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, co-founded investigative website The Intercept, which has published leaked chats showing Justice Minister Sergio Moro conspired to keep leftist icon Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva out of the 2018 presidential election that Bolsonaro ultimately won.

The journalist, who was part of the team that first interviewed fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, told AFP last month he had received "grotesque" threats also targeting his Brazilian husband and adopted children since his team began publishing the messages.

A statement signed by 26 press freedom and human rights groups rejected "the wave of attacks and threats" against Greenwald and other members of The Intercept in Brazil.

"Freedom of the press and information are the pillars of democracy, they transcend political differences and must be guaranteed and protected at all costs," said the statement issued by Reporters Without Borders and signed by Human Rights Watch and PEN International.

Thousands of journalists, artists and activists gathered in Rio de Janeiro in a public show of support for Greenwald on Tuesday, hours after Bolsonaro called him a "militant."

On Saturday, Bolsonaro said the journalist could "do jail time in Brazil."

But the president added that Greenwald would not be expelled under a decree Moro issued on Friday that allows Brazil to deport foreigners considered dangerous.

Greenwald has faced calls for his deportation over the leaked encrypted messages Moro exchanged with prosecutors when he was a judge spearheading a massive corruption investigation known as Car Wash.

Moro, who was appointed to Bolsonaro's cabinet in January, has been accused of improperly trying to influence the probe that has claimed the scalps of scores of high-profile South American figures, including Lula, since it began in 2014.

Moro has denied any wrongdoing and says criminals hacked the messages with the aim of overturning convictions resulting from the investigation.

Moro says four people arrested last week for allegedly hacking phones were the source of the chats leaked to The Intercept.

The Intercept has refused to identify its source or reveal how the information was accessed.