September 25, 2014

Snowden Wins “Alternative Nobel Prize”

By Marlene Koury

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation Honorary Prize goes to Edward Snowden for “revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance.”  He was jointly awarded the prize along with Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of The Guardian, with whom Snowden collaborated to publish his findings on NSA surveillance.

The prize is awarded by Sweden’s Right Livelihood Award Foundation each year “to honor and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today.”  The award was created in 1980 after the Nobel Foundation refused to create awards honoring efforts in environmentalism and international development.  The Foundation refers to its award as the “alternative Nobel prize.”

The Foundation said Snowden had shown “courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights.”  As an honorary prize recipient, Snowden is not entitled to prize money, but the Foundation has committed to funding legal support for Snowden, although did not disclose the amount it would provide.  The three prize winners – Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jahanger, Sri Lankan activist Basil Fernando and US environmentalist Bill McKibbben – will each receive approximately $70,000 in prize money to help fund their continued work.

The executive director of the Foundation, Ole von Uexkull, said “with this year’s awards, we want to send a message of urgent warning that these trends – illegal mass surveillance of ordinary citizens, the violation of human and civil rights, violent manifestations of religious fundamentalism, and the decline of the planet’s life-supporting systems – are very much upon us already” and “if they are allowed to continue, and reinforce each other, they have the power to undermine the basis of civilized societies.”

Snowden issued a recorded statement expressing his gratitude at receiving the honorary award.

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