Edward Snowden is to be awarded the Ridenhour Prize for truth-telling along with filmmaker and journalist Laura Poitras, who aided the whistleblower in disclosing numerous documents about government surveillance.
The annual accolade honors acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society. This is the 10th year the prize has been presented. It was established by the Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation in honor of the investigative journalist Ronald L. Ridenhour, who helped expose the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War.
Since leaking scores of sensitive documents in Hong Kong in May 2013, Snowden - a former Central Intelligence Agency employee and National Security Agency contractor - has been granted temporary asylum in Russia. If the 30-year-old returns to the USA, he will face prosecution, including two espionage acts and is likely to spend decades behind bars.
Poitras was the first to establish encrypted contact with Snowden and helped to initiate safe lines of communications with other journalists. This would eventually lead to the exposure of the National Security Agency's vast surveillance operation.
The investigative journalist had been detained at US borders since 2004, following her work in Iraq. Poitras began work on a documentary about surveillance in 2011, focusing on NSA whistleblowers William Binney and Thomas Drake. Her experience in this field meant she was the perfect ally that Snowden needed to try and expose illegal US surveillance programs.
The awards will be presented on April 30 at the Washington Press Club. Efforts are being made to have both Snowden and Poitras, who is based in Berlin, appear via a video link.