Hero or traitor? America is still polarised over Edward Snowden and whether the newspapers that exposed the extent of National Security Agency’s vast global spying network should be lauded or condemned.
Ten months later, the question on journalists’ lips is whether America’s most prestigious journalism prize, the Pulitzers, will honour them when the annual awards are announced Monday.
For most journalists, there is no debate.
In arguably the most influential story of the decade, The Guardian and The Washington Post broke sensational new ground by exposing how the US government monitors the data of millions.
But the leaks embarrassed the government, strained relations with allies angered that Americans had been tapping into the private phone calls of leaders and sparked a debate within the United States on the merits and morality of mass surveillance.
Public opinion is at worst divided. Many believe Americans 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 Quinnipiac University’s School of Communications, predicted tension between journalists and more 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 said.
“And the person who provided the information took refuge in Russia, so I understand there can be serious debate.”