Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has suggested the United States should drop its prosecution of Edward Snowden, because his revelations have served the public and launched an international debate about electronic surveillance. Earlier this year, the United States unsealed a criminal complaint against Snowden that includes multiple Espionage Act counts, each of which carries a ten-year prison sentence.
Speaking at the launch of a report into surveillance commissioned by the UN General Assembly as a direct consequence of Edward Snowden’s revelations, Pillay said that “those who disclose human rights violations should be protected, we need them.”
Originally published in the Guardian, 14 April 2014
I am grateful to the committee for their recognition of the efforts of those involved in the last year’s reporting, and join others around the world in congratulating Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman, Ewen MacAskill and all of the others at the Guardian and Washington Post on winning the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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 recognises was work of vital public importance.
This decision reminds us that what no individual conscience can change, a free press can. My efforts would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion, and skill of these newspapers, and they have my gratitude and respect for their extraordinary service to our society. Their work has given us a better future and a more accountable democracy.
The Pulitzer Board has awarded the prestigious Public Service award to the Guardian and Washington Post for their reporting on Edward Snowden’s revelations. The decision, which had reportedly been the subject of some controversy among the 19-member Prize Board, echoes 1972 prize, given to the New York Post for reporting the Pentagon Papers.