15th April, 2014
NEW YORK (AFP) – The Guardian of London and the Washington Post shared a Pulitzer Prize Monday for reporting on leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that revealed a global surveillance network monitoring millions of Americans and foreigners.
The British and American newspapers won the award for public service journalism handed out by the Pulitzer committee at Columbia University in New York for sparking debate on secretive NSA programs.
The awards evoked a similar situation in 1972 when The New York Times was recognized for publication of The Pentagon Papers, leaking details of US political and military involvement in Vietnam.
The US unit of the British newspaper was honored for “helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy,” the committee said.
It recognized The Post for its “authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the (NSA) disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.”
The shared award went to the two newspapers credited with breaking the news about NSA surveillance programs, without specifically citing the journalists involved.
Both newspapers relied on documents leaked by Snowden, a fugitive former NSA contractor who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia and is being sought for prosecution in the United States.
The reporters who played key roles in the story included Glenn Greenwald, who has since left the Guardian, and colleague Ewen MacAskill. Barton Gellman, who already has two Pulitzers, was the writer of most of the Washington Post reports.
Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker who was the point of contact for Snowden, had the unusual distinction of sharing bylines in both the Guardian and the Post on the topic.
– ‘Not focused on Snowden’ –
In arguably the most influential story of the decade, The Guardian and Post broke sensational ground by exposing how the US government monitors the data of millions.
The NSA leaks embarrassed the government, strained relations with allies angered that Americans had been tapping into the private phone calls of leaders and sparked a debate within the United States on the merits and morality of mass surveillance.
Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes since 2002, said the choice was complex and that the prize was “really not focused on Mr Snowden.”
He said the two newspapers “helped stimulate this very important discussion about the balance between privacy and security and that discussion is still going on.”
Snowden, in a statement released to The Guardian, said the Pulitzer decision “is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government.”