It’s been nearly a year since the Guardian and the Washington Post first began publishing reports based on leaks from Edward Snowden, and in the months that followed neither newspaper was immune from criticism.

Publishing articles that expose government misconduct and shine a light on previously undisclosed programs is never easy to do, and yet it is an essential public service protected by no less an authority than the U.S. Constitution.

Such hard-hitting investigation into the depths of government surveillance is deserving of more than just nominal praise, and today the two newspapers that led the charge were rewarded with one of the most prestigious awards in all of journalism, the Pulitzer prize for public service.

The ACLU is proud to serve as a legal advisor to Edward Snowden, the man who set this all in motion, and we are pleased that his efforts have led to such a sea change in the way that issues surrounding privacy and surveillance have been covered in the media. Earlier today, Snowden released a statement praising the committee for its decision and acknowledging the prize as “vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government.” Here is his statement in full:

I am grateful to the committee for their recognition of the efforts of those involved in the last year's reporting, and join others around the world in congratulating Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman, Ewen MacAskill and all of the others at the Guardian and Washington Post on winning the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Today's decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognises was work of vital public importance.

This decision reminds us that what no individual conscience can change, a free press can. My efforts would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion, and skill of these newspapers, and they have my gratitude and respect for their extraordinary service to our society. Their work has given us a better future and a more accountable democracy.

To help celebrate today's vindication, make sure to sign our petition asking President Obama to grant Snowden full immunity immediately. Right now we've got just over 50,000 signatures, but we'd sure like to get even higher!