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Snowden and Poitras to Receive Truth-Telling Prize

The Ridenhour prize for truth-telling will be given to Edward J. Snowden and Laura Poitras, the filmmaker and journalist who helped Mr. Snowden disclose his trove of documents on government surveillance.

The award, named for the Vietnam veteran who helped expose the My Lai massacre and later became an investigative journalist, is expected to be announced on Monday morning. It’s the latest honor for the reporting based on the top-secret material leaked by Mr. Snowden, who was a contractor for the National Security Agency.

While the public and Congress debate whether Mr. Snowden should be considered a hero, a criminal or both, journalism and public policy organizations have heaped praise on the reporting based on the disclosures.

In February, the Polk Award for National Security Reporting was given to four reporters for their work on the Snowden disclosures, Ms. Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, writing in The Guardian, and Barton Gellman, writing in The Washington Post. Last week, The Guardian was named newspaper of the year at the British Press Awards for its reporting on the surveillance. The Pulitzer Prizes will be announced on April 14.

The Ridenhour Prizes, established by the Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation in honor of the veteran and journalist Ronald L. Ridenhour, who died in 1998, have been given to a range of government critics. In 2011, before the Snowden disclosures, Thomas Drake, a former N.S.A. official accused of leaking classified information, was given the truth-telling prize.

The awards are being presented April 30 at the National Press Club, and organizers say they are making efforts to have Mr. Snowden and Ms. Poitras, who is based in Berlin, appear remotely.

Mr. Snowden, who fled, ultimately, to Russia, faces prosecution if he returns to the United States. He has appeared via video link at a number of events in America; Ms. Poitras has not been back to the United States since the Snowden revelations. (Ms. Poitras, Mr. Greenwald and the journalist Jeremy Scahill, backed by the Internet billionaire Pierre Omidyar, founded The Intercept, which reports on national security issues.)

In describing the decision-making process, Danielle Brian, a member of the selection committee, said that the committee felt that Ms. Poitras had “been underappreciated — if not for Laura, we would not know Edward Snowden’s name.”

The decision to honor Mr. Snowden was more fraught, said Ms. Brian, who is executive director of the Project on Government Oversight.

“There is no doubt, we knew we were stepping into something controversial,” she said. “We were aware that there is so much that still hasn’t come out, that we don’t know the full story, what will continue to unfold, and that can give some of us pause.”

But, Ms. Brian added, that “does not diminish the fact that his exposure of N.S.A. domestic surveillance has had an extraordinary impact on the public policy debate — we are already seeing movement in the Congress and the White House directly because of his truth-telling.”

Correction: April 7, 2014
An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the location of the awards ceremony on April 30. It is the National Press Club, not the Washington Press Club.
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