The 1.5m kronor ($210,000) cash award was also shared by Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jahangir, Basil Fernando of the Asian Human Rights Commission and US environmentalist Bill McKibben. Created in 1980, the annual Right Livelihood Award honours efforts that prize founder Jacob von Uexkull felt were being ignored by the Nobel Prizes.
Foundation director Ole von Uexkull - the award creator's nephew - said all winners have been invited to the December 1 award ceremony in Stockholm, though he added it's unclear whether Snowden can attend. "We will start discussions with the Swedish government and his lawyers in due course to discuss the potential arrangements for his participation," von Uexkull told the AP news agency.
Snowden, who has reportedly also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, remains exiled in Russia since leaking top secret NSA documents to journalists last year.
He has been charged under the US Espionage Act and could face up to 30 years in prison. The announcement had been set for Thursday but it was communicated early after a leak to Swedish broadcaster SVT. Also, the foundation had been denied access to the Swedish Foreign Ministry's media room, where it has announced the awards since 1995, von Uexkull said. He said the ministry cited security concerns but added that he believed the decision was linked to the fact that Snowden was among the laureates.
The Foreign Ministry referred questions to Foreign Minister Carl Bildt's spokesman, Erik Zsiga, who didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.