Money laundering, bribery and corruption at Brazil's state-owned energy company Petrobras are just some of the crimes uncovered in the biggest political corruption scandal in the country's history. Back in 2014, the judge appointed to preside over the Car Wash investigation, also known as Lava Jato, was Sergio Moro.

It resulted in the arrest of hundreds of politicians and business figures, led to the fall of one President - Dilma Rousseff - and landed another former President - Lula Da Silva - behind bars.

Moro was lionised by Brazil's mostly right-wing media - TV channels like Globo and Record, and magazines like Veja. And a few years later, when far-right Jair Bolsonaro was elected Brazil's leader, he selected Moro as his justice and public security minister.

But now Moro is facing a scandal of his own which demolishes his reputation as an anti-corruption crusader, scrubbing Brazil clean of corruption. The Intercept Brasil published a series of exposes from text messages they obtained showing Moro's communication with prosecutors that indicate he was conspiring with them, rather than being an impartial judge.

"The most important revelation is that Sergio Moro was in cahoots with the prosecution. It's entirely forbidden to have a judge who is in constant conversation with the prosecution in order to arrange outcomes," Joao Feres, a professor with Rio de Janeiro State University, tells Al Jazeera.

The messages also appear to confirm the suspicion that - throughout the Car Wash investigation - Moro and the prosecution were trying to manipulate press coverage to turn it against members of the leftist PT party and to pave the way for Bolsonaro.

"What this whole Lava Jato campaign as a media campaign produced was a devaluation of institutional politics, of party politics in Brazil to a degree in which the electorate became so sceptical that in the end, they elected extreme right-wing outsider Bolsonaro. So Bolsonaro and his election should be seen as a product of this long campaign against institutional politics," adds Feres.

But not all media outlets followed up on The Intercept Brasil's reporting alleging Moro's collusion with prosecutors.

"In Brazil, there exists a section of right-wing media that invested a lot in the Car Wash story and there is no way they will ever let go of this narrative," says Alexandre Santi, deputy editor at The Intercept Brasil, who noted, on the other hand, the reaction of many international news outlets to their expose on Moro was "incredible".

The country's most powerful broadcaster, Globo, focused on the legalities of The Intercept Brasil's journalism rather than the content. This past Wednesday, a judge ordered the arrest of four people on charges of hacking Moro's phone.

In a comment to Al Jazeera, Globo defended its stance: "It would be considered bad journalism in any part of the world, including in Qatar, to ignore that the cellphones of the authorities were hacked."

"In a story of such magnitude as #VazaJato, which involves the hacking of several authorities - including the most famous judge in Brazil, the current minister of justice, the biggest news I believe is not the content of the alleged conversations but rather the hacking of these conversations. This is very serious," says Rodrigo Constantino, a columnist with Brazil's Gazeta do Povo.

But back in March of 2016, when Moro released a tape of a private phone call between Dilma Rousseff and Lula Da Silva, Globo was less concerned about the journalistic ethics. It ran with that story, as did Veja and many other Brazilian news outlets.

"Much more serious was when Moro leaked a conversation between presidents; this was not in the public interest," says Carolina Matos, a media scholar at City University. "Moro had the chance of a lifetime to go down in history as someone who has combated corruption. You had all the power at your disposal … all the media attention … all the public support. And, no, instead of that, you chose a political project. You chose to align yourself to a particular group."


Alexandre de Santi - deputy editor, The Intercept Brasil

Joao Feres Jr - professor of political science, Rio de Janeiro State University

Rodrigo Constantino - columnist, Gazeta do Povo

Carolina Matos - media scholar, City University of London

Source: Al Jazeera News