On April 4, the prestigious Pulitzer Prize committee awarded journalists Barton Gellman and Eli Saslow with the service medal for their coverage of the National Security Agency leaks that were carried out by Edward Snowden in June 2013. This decision has yet again rekindled the big debate regarding the issue and whether or not what Snowden did was an act of heroism or betrayal.
Regardless of his actions and how it was carried out, what Gellman and Saslow did the right thing as journalists by striving to educate the public on happenings within the government.
Snowden, a former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency and the NSA, was responsible for the most significant leak in U.S. history, according to the Huffington Post. In May 2013, Snowden met with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, two journalists from the Washington Post and The Guardian, and released classified material from the NSA for publication. His leaks revealed the existence of various global surveillance programs, most of them organized by the NSA and other various surveillance networks.
In the months that followed, Snowden allowed the journalists to reveal their source and expose him to the world. They have since been called everything from whistleblowers to patriots to traitors. But, why do some view them to be traitors when they were only exposing the citizens of the nation to the unnerving reality of government spying?
“I believe in the freedom of the press, and if information is uncovered, news outlets have the right to inform the public without fear of government intervention,” said Jimmy Miller, a junior communications major and aspiring journalist. “Although they may be immoral, some of what the government does is necessary and that is just the reality. But, if information gets leaked, it’s fair game.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a declaration adopted by all of the United Nations, states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”
So, why are the journalists who were briefing the nation on unwarranted spying being targeted?
“Snowden knew the persecution that would follow once he leaked the information. As for the journalists, I guess it’s up to how each individual would perceive the situation,” said African politician Hussein Abdi Dualeh. “Their decision to publish the leaked information will inevitably receive praise and harsh condemnation at the same time.”
Patriotic Americans should stand up and support journalists like Greenwald and Poitras. In 2014 where the news is flooded with celebrity gossip and other fluff pieces, journalistic work, such as this, should be praised. Taking chances that will change the course of your life is sometimes necessary when working in the news industry.
“Although I don’t condone Snowden’s acts when it comes to him leaking government information, what the two reporters did isn’t an act of treason at all, they are just reporting on their findings,” said Kati Miller, a sophomore political science major.
We are asking the wrong questions. If the public demands that journalists inform the public of factual and legitimate information, then what else would you expect them to do? Credible information is hard to come by in an age where internet bloggers and breaking news run rampant.
Published April 30, 2014