The Guardian and The Washington Post have shared the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for journalism for their reporting on secret surveillance by the National Security Agency.

The Pulitzer committee praised the Guardian US for "its revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy".

Editor of the Guardian Alan Rusbridger said he was "truly honoured".

Mr Rusbridger said in a statement: "This was a complex story, written, edited and produced by a team of wonderful journalists.

"We are particularly grateful for our colleagues across the world who supported the Guardian in circumstances which threatened to stifle our reporting.

"And we share this honour, not only with our colleagues at the Washington Post, but also with Edward Snowden, who risked so much in the cause of the public service which has today been acknowledged by the award of this prestigious prize."

The Washington Post was praised for its reporting, which was "marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security," said the committee.

Mr Snowden, the former intelligence contractor behind the leaks, said the prize was a "vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government".

He said in a statement: "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."

The winners will each receive a gold medal awarded to those news organisations who display distinguished examples of meritorious public service.

The Pulitzer Prize, now in its 98th year, is awarded each year in the categories of journalism, letters, drama and music.

Donna Tartt's book The Goldfinch took the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

This is the first time the main prize has been shared by two news organisations since 1990, when the medal was awarded to both the Washington Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Other winners of the journalism prizes were the Boston Globe for its breaking news reporting and two journalists at Reuters for their international reporting on the Rohingya minority community in Myanmar.