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Accepting Whistleblower Prize, Snowden Declares 'This Belongs to the Public'

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden receives prestigious award in absentia, thanking countless unsung heroes who are changing the world

Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Accepting the prestigious German whistleblower prize, Edward Snowden declared in a statement, read by internet activist and journalist Jacob Appelbaum at an acceptance ceremony over the weekend, that it is not he—but the public—who deserves the "greater reward and recognition."

"[This] belongs to the individuals and organizations in countless countries around the world who shattered boundaries of language and geography to stand together in defense of the public right to know and the value of our privacy," the statement reads.

The award, granted every two years since 1999 by the Federation of German Scientists, the International Association Of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, and Transparency International, honors individuals who "reveal major grievances and dangerous developments for individuals and society, for peace and the environment in the public interest."

"[A]n open society needs civil courage and courageous people like Edward Snowden in order to uncover and stop abuses," stated Hartmut Grassl of the Federation of German Scientists.

Supporters and colleagues flooded Snowden with praise as he received the award. “If I ran the committee, making the choice of who was to receive this award, it would take me probably one and a half seconds at most to have come to the conclusion that he is the only person deserving of the award this year," declared journalist Glenn Greenwald in a video statement released Saturday.


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Slavoj Žižek, international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, praised what he terms a new generation of whistleblowing heroes. "Assange, Manning, Snowden, these are our new heroes, exemplary cases of the new ethics that befits our era of digitalised control," he declared. "They are no longer just whistleblowers who denounce the illegal practices of private companies to the public authorities; they denounce these public authorities themselves when they engage in 'private use of reason.'"

Yet, Snowden insisted that the real power to change society comes from masses of people, many of them unsung, taking action in their own lives. He states:

My gratitude belongs to all of those who have reached out to their friends and family to explain why suspicion-less surveillance matters. It belongs to the man in a mask on the street on a hot day and the women with a sign and an umbrella in the rain, it belongs to the young people in college with a civil liberty sticker on their laptop, and the kid in the back of a class in high school making memes. All of these people accept that change begins with a single voice and spoke one message to the world: governments must be accountable to us for the decisions that they make.

To view the full speech, as read at the acceptance ceremony, see the video below:


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