Whistleblower Edward Snowden is at the heart of a debate surrounding this year’s competition for the Pulitzer Prize, the most coveted journalism award in the United States, China Daily reported Monday.
Snowden, a former US defense contractor, supplied confidential information to media outlets, including The Guardian and The Washington Post, about alleged spying by the US government on millions of people and institutions around the world.
The Washington Post and The Guardian are the front runners for the main journalism award, but the selection process is being clouded by questions about whether they deserve to be honored for providing a platform to someone who is wanted by the US government for treason, the Chinese newspaper reported, citing Agence France-Presse.
The awards, established to recognize excellence in journalism, literature and music, are to be announced Monday.
The leaks embarrassed Washington, strained relations with allies angered by alleged US phone hacking of private calls of their leaders and sparked a debate in the US on the merits and morality of mass surveillance.
Public opinion is divided. Many believe US citizens have a right to know what the government is doing. Others say Snowden is a traitor and a criminal who should be prosecuted.
Paul Janensch, professor emeritus at the Quinnipiac University School of Communications, predicted tension between journalists and establishment members of the Pulitzer jury.
“These are fabulous pieces of journalism on the one hand, but on the other hand the documents were leaked, they were classified, they were distressing to the US government,” Janensch was quoted as saying. “And the person who provided the information took refuge in Russia, so I understand there can be serious debate.”
In January, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggested that journalists reporting on the leaks had acted as Snowden’s “accomplices”.
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