Former National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden received the Norwegian Academy of Literature of Literature and Freedom of Expression Bjornson Prize in Molde, Norway. A statuette and diploma were put on an empty chair in his honor during the award ceremony. He addressed the audience via a live video link. Screenshot photo courtesy of Elemento
Former National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden received the Norwegian Academy of Literature of Literature and Freedom of Expression Bjornson Prize in Molde, Norway on Saturday. A statuette and diploma were put on an empty chair in his honor during the award ceremony.
Snowden, who sought asylum in Russia two years ago, and is wanted by the U.S. government on espionage charges, accepted the award via a live video link, The New York Daily News reported.
"We will honor you as the most important whistleblower of our times," said Hege Newth Nouri, head of the board of the Bjornson Academy.
Despite his absence at the ceremony, Snowden was given a standing ovation by those in attendance. The prize includes 100,000 Norwegian kroner, about $12,000.
Snowden exposed extensive telephone and data-collection programs used by the NSA. Detractors say he compromised national security, while his supporters view him as a whistleblower who exposed government overreach.
During his speech, the former U.S. intelligence contractor criticized Russia for its crackdown on human rights and online freedom. He also reiterated that he would prefer to not live in exile.
"I've been quite critical of (it) in the past and I'll continue to be in the future, because this drive that we see in the Russian government to control more and more the Internet, to control more and more what people are seeing, even parts of personal lives, deciding what is the appropriate or inappropriate way for people to express their love for one another...(is) fundamentally wrong," he said.
Snowden also said that he had "never intended to go to Russia, that was never my plan. I applied for asylum in 21 countries. They were all silent. Russia was actually one of the last countries in that sequence that I applied for," he added.
The suggestion to go to Russia was made by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
"I think [Assange's] intention was good. He was focused primarily on my safety as a publisher, and having a source, he was interested in the source protection angle," said Snowden. "But for me, the problem is I wasn't interested in my own safety, my own protection. I never expected to be free today. I expected to be in prison."
The White House rejected a petition in late July to pardon Snowden, saying he should return to the United States and "be judged by a jury of his peers" for leaking US government secrets.
"I knew the consequences of my actions when I took them," Snowden also said during his acceptance speech.
Snowden, an Oliver Stone film, is scheduled to be released in North American theaters on Christmas Day.