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Guardian editor wins top European press honor for Snowden reporting

Published time: March 17, 2014 23:01
Edited time: June 27, 2014 08:37
AFP Photo / Andrew Cowie

AFP Photo / Andrew Cowie

The editor-in-chief of the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom has been honored with a European Press award for leading the team of journalists who published the reports based on the classified National Security Agency files leaked by Edward Snowden.

Judges for the European Press Prize gave Alan Rusbridger “The Special Award,” the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, at a London ceremony that attracted journalists, reporters, editors, and news commentators from throughout the world. Editor Wolfgang Buchner from Der Spiegel was also given the award because of the German paper’s determination to continue publishing the intelligence revelations.

Along with the Washington Post, the Guardian was the first news outlet to publish and report on the extensive trove of data that Snowden provided to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. The international fallout from the reports was immediate and continues more than nine months after the first documents were published.

Justin Webb, a presenter on BBC Today, said during the announcement that the Snowden documents were “the biggest global story of the year,” which “set alarm bells ringing throughout the world,” as quoted by the Guardian.

One European paper, the Guardian, has played a leading role in the story,” he continued. “Its editor Alan Rusbridger has endured many months of difficulties at the hands of the government and its different agencies. He has fought to bring the facts to public attention and to do so in a way that is safe and decent, but also reveals the truth.”

Over the past year Rusbridger has been met with criticism from the public and professional journalists, was asked to testify in front of British lawmakers and, at one point, forced to destroy computer hard drives that contained copies of some of the classified data.

In that instance, Rusbridger warned members of the British GCHQ that the Guardian was not the only outlet that had possession of the documents, meaning destruction of the hard drives would be pointless. That suggestion went unheeded, but did contribute to Rusbridger’s surging public reputation.

The editor of Britain's Guardian newspaper, Alan Rusbridger (AFP Photo / Ben Stansall)

The editor used his acceptance speech to say that the government’s reaction to the publication of the intelligence files only motivated journalists at the Guardian more.

They had always looked up to the UK as a place where all this was invented, this notion of a free press…people could not understand how this could have happened in this country,” he said, again quoted by the Guardian.

“This required a big team of journalists working in four countries across three continents,” Rusbridger said. “It was a very difficult story to pull together. It is rather to Britain’s discredit that in the end it turned out this story had to be reported from America and this sort of reporting was not possible in Britain.”

Other winners included: Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Yeganeh Torbati, who won the Investigative reporting Award for a Reuters article titled “Assets of the Ayatollah.” Sergey Khazov won the Distinguished Writing award for a series of articles in the New Times magazine.

Boris Dezulovic of Croatia won the Commentator Award for the his “Vukovar: A Life-Size Monument to the Dead City,” and Espen Sandli and Linn Kongsli Hillestad earned the Innovation Award for their “Null CTRL,” published by Dagbladet, Norway.