Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said his paper’s coverage of leaked US embassy cables helped stir revolution in the Middle East and North Africa as he picked up the newspaper of the year prize at the Press Awards last night.
Rusbridger later had charitable words to say about the News of the Word after that paper beat The Guardian in several categories picking up four prizes overall to The Guardian’s three.
The Times picked up more awards than any other single title with five – including two for Caitlin Moran who was named both interviewer and critic of the year.
Picking up the prize for newspaper of the year, Rusbridger said: ‘I’d like to thank the great team at the Guardian for this award and just say something about the Wikileaks story.
‘I think it’s too early to say the impact that story had on events in the Middle East and North Africa, but I would guess that it had some effect.”
He added: ‘We went to the New York Times to share that story mainly because of the First Amendment which is the gold standard for free speech in the world.
‘At a time when our own libel laws are being reformed, I hope the Obama Administration is going to think about what it does about Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.”
Former US soldier Manning was the alleged source for the confidential US embassy cables which The Guardian published and Assange provided them to The Guardian ahead of publication on his Wikileaks website.
Rusbridger said of Assange last night: ‘It’s no secret we have had our ups and downs with him, he’s an interesting man and a difficult man, but I think at a time when the eyes of the world will be on how America reacts I hope they don’t go for him in the way that has been suggested and I hope very much that they treat Bradley Manning properly.
‘I think we should remember those two men – and particularly Bradley Manning tonight.”
Speaking afterwards to Press Gazette, Rusbridger said: ‘Wikileaks was the story of the year, I can’t think of another story, which has been created by a newspaper, that has been bigger.
‘It has been discussed in every capital city in the world. It wasn’t handed to us on a plate – it was a lot of work.”
On the question of what effect revelations in leaked US embassy cables had on Arab countries, he said that Guardian foreign correspondent Ghaith Abdul Ahad told him that ‘everywhere he’s been – Tunisia, Egypt, Libya – they talk about Wikileaks”.
He added: ‘The Americans were the people who were propping up these regimes and yet [the Embassy Cables revealed] they knew they were corrupt. It was hugely important.”
The News of the World‘s haul of four prizes included scoop of the year, for its Pakistan cricket team match-fixing expose, and news reporter of the year for the undercover specialist behind that sting Mazher Mahmood.
Yesterday two journalists were arrested by police in the latest development after what has been two years of revelations by The Guardian into phone-hacking at the News of the World.
But despite previous animosity between The Guardian and News of the World, last night Rusbridger said that the cricket match-fixing scoop was ‘a great story’and he added: ‘Our quarrel has never been with the way the News of the World is run today, it’s a historic thing.
‘Well done to them. In a sense that’s what this night is about. If we can’t get together once a year and be generous about each other then we are the poorer for it.”
News of the World editor Colin Myler told Press Gazette: ‘I have a fantastic team.
‘It’s been a tough year and they have dug in and done what they do best, produce great stories and great newspapers and I’m very proud of them.”