The Pulitzer board decided to honour two publications for their excellent coverage of the leaked information from NSA coverage, and specifically to single out the reporting as a public service.
The jury highlighted the importance of the worldwide surveillance revelations, especially given that Snowden has been charged under the Espionage Act for leaking the classified documents.
The Pulitzer committee praised the Post’s “authoritative and insightful reports” as helping “the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.”
The committee described the The Guardian US, the New York-based newsroom of the British newspaper and the one that was eligible for the prize, as having sparked “a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy.”
On Friday, four journalists responsible for NSA coverage – Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman and Ewan MacAskill – were honored with the prestigious Polk Award for their outstanding involvement in the issue.
However, the Pulitzer jury did not specify between individual journalists, instead awarding its public service prize to the news organizations responsible for the initial reports on how Nationals Security Agency collected data via Internet.
“On June 5, Greenwald of The Guardian reported that the agency had collected phone records for millions of Verizon customers.
The next day, the Post and Guardian raced to inform the whole world on the NSA’s secret Prism program, which helped the U.S. government to collect data from companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook.
A few days later, Greenwald and Poitras interviewed Snowden in Hong Kong as the former contractor, then 29 years old and unknown to the world, first revealed himself.
“Reporting on the complicated Snowden documents was a team effort at both the Post and the Guardian, with numerous reporters and editors involved,” The Huffington Post writes.
“Still, the decision not to recognize specific journalists could be interpreted as a safer move, especially given how Greenwald has rankled some in the media establishment and often breaks from journalistic convention in strongly expressing his point of view in interviews, blog posts and on Twitter,” the publication adds.
The U.S. government later claimed that the former NSA contractor’s obtaining of top-secret documents has been detrimental to national security.
Some officials and members of Congress even insisted that Snowden worked in cooperation with Chinese and Russian intelligence services. The whisleblower maintains that he took no classified documents to Russia.
In a statement to The Guardian, Snowden said the Pulitzer board’s “decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government.”
“We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation,” he continued, “including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognises was work of vital public importance.”