By Ewen MacAskill
Whistleblower Edward Snowden received several standing ovations in the Swedish parliament after being given the Right Livelihood award for his revelations of the scale of state surveillance.
Snowden, who is in exile in Russia, addressed the parliament by video from Moscow. In a symbolic gesture, his family and supporters said no one picked up the award on his behalf in the hope that one day he might be free to travel to Sweden to receive it in person.
His father, Lon, who was in the chamber for what was an emotional ceremony, said: “I am thankful for the support of the Right Livelihood award and the Swedish parliament. The award will remain here in expectation that some time – sooner or later – he will come to Stockholm to accept the award.”
Snowden is wanted by the US on charges under the Espionage Act. His chances of a deal with the US justice department that would allow him to return home are slim and he may end up spending the rest of his days in Russia.
His supporters hope that a west European country such as Sweden might grant him asylum. Members of the Green party called for him to be given sanctuary in Sweden.
Philanthropist Jakob von Uexküll, who established the award in 1980, told the parliament: “So Mr Snowden, your Right Livelihood Award is waiting for you. We trust that Sweden will make it possible for you to collect your award here in Stockholm in person in the very near future.”
The awards jury, in its citation, said Snowden was being honored “for his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights”.
The chamber was filled with members of parliament from almost all the parties as well as family and friends of those receiving the award.
The Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, was also among the recipients. The jury citation said his award was in celebration of “building a global media organization dedicated to responsible journalism in the public interest, undaunted by the challenge of exposing corporate and government malpractices”.
In his address, Rusbridger said: “One of the challenges Snowden poses for us is the recognition that there is no such thing as the public interest. No such thing as one single, monolithic interest that overrides all others.”
Security from terrorists is a public interest but freedom of expression and a right to privacy were also in the public interest. “So there are many – often conflicting – public interests, not one,” Rusbridger said.Φ
Ewen MacAskill is the Guardian’s defence and intelligence correspondent. He was Washington DC bureau chief from 2007-2013, diplomatic editor from 1999-2006, chief political correspondent from 1996-99 and political editor of the Scotsman from 1990-96.