Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pulitzer Prize, Snowden and Press Freedom in the US

Rabin Man Shakya

The United States is a great democratic nation which has always been the trail blazer in field of democracy, human rights and press freedom. But lately there has, unfortunately, been some setbacks in the field of press freedom in the US. According to details published by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) in 2014, the US has fallen to 46th in the ranking of the press freedom index faring worse than countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Surinam, Botswana, Ghana, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovenia, El Salvador etc.

Roger Shuler, an Alabama blogger was forced to remove blog posts in order to be freed from a US jail. Jeremy Hammond was jailed for 10 years after hacking into the website of private intelligence company Stratfor, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

But the decision of the Pulitzer Prize Committee to honour two newspapers that revealed government secrets about spying by the National Security Agency - The Washington Post and The Guardian - with the Pulitzer Prize for public service was yet another feather in US journalism's cap.

Meanwhile, the Guardian, in one of its news stories published April 14, 2014 mentioned:"The Guardian and The Washington Post have been awarded the highest accolade in US journalism, winning the Pulitzer prize for their groundbreaking articles on National Security Agency's surveillance activities based on the leaks of Edward Snowden."

The Guardian news story went on to say:"In the series of articles that ensued, teams of journalists at the Guardian and the Washington Post published the most substantial disclosures of US government secrets since the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War in 1971."

It is to be noted that Edward Snowden, an American computer specialist, a former CIA operative and former National Security Agency contractor who disclosed classified NSA documents to several media outlets, has been grabbing international headlines continuously since May 2013 up to now.

Snowden, who is currently living in Russia and who has been charged with espionage and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted, recently again captured the headlines for (1) asking Vladimir Putin on live TV if Russia also spies on its citizens like the US and for (2) reporting on NSA spying winning the Pulitzer prize.

Meanwhile, venting his reactions to the Pulitzer prize news, Edward Snowden , in a statement recently said: "Today'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, 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 recognizes was work of vital public importance."

Snowden  further emphasized that his actions in leaking the documents that formed the basis of the reporting "would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion and skill of these newspapers."

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