US whistleblower Snowden wins Swedish rights prize

STOCKHOLM, Stockholm - Fugitive US intelligence agent Edward Snowden was jointly awarded a Swedish human rights award on Wednesday, September 24.

"The 2014 Right Livelihood Honorary Award goes to Edward Snowden for his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights," the Stockholm-based Right Livelihood Award Foundation said in a statement.

The prize is awarded annually "to honor and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today", according to the foundation.

As an honorary award winner, the whistleblower – who has lived in exile in Russia since 2013 – would not receive the customary 500,000 kronor (54,500 euros, $70,000) prize money, but the foundation said it would "fund legal support for him" without disclosing the amount.

Alan Rusbridger, editor in chief of the Guardian newspaper, which first published details of global US electronic surveillance based on Snowden's leaks, also won an honorary award for "responsible journalism in the public interest".

The other three prize winners -- who will each receive 500,000 kronor to further their work -- were Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jahanger, Sri Lankan rights activist Basil Fernando and US environmentalist Bill McKibbben.

"We want to send a message of urgent warning that these trends -- illegal mass surveillance of ordinary citizens, the violation of human and civil rights, violent manifestations of religious fundamentalism, and the decline of the planet's life-supporting systems -- are very much upon us already," said Ole von Uexkull, the foundation's director in a statement.

Swedish-German philatelist Jakob von Uexkull founded the donor-funded prize in 1980 after the Nobel Foundation behind the Nobel Prizes refused to create awards honoring efforts in the fields of the environment and international development.

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation often calls its distinction the "alternative Nobel prize".

The awards will be formally handed over at a ceremony in the Swedish parliament on December 1. –