WATERVILLE — A  journalist heralded for top-quality reporting in countries where women have been oppressed is the recipient of Colby College’s 2011 Lovejoy Award.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, a National Public Radio foreign correspondent who reported this summer from Libya as rebel forces surged into Tripoli and toppled Muammar Gadhafi, will accept the award on Sunday, Oct. 16.

Since 1952, the Lovejoy Award has been given annually to recognize courage in journalism. It honors the memory of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, Colby’s valedictorian in 1826, the abolitionist publisher killed in 1837 in Alton, Ill., for condemning slavery. Lovejoy is considered by many to be America’s first martyr to freedom of the press.

“Our committee’s decision this year to expand the pool of eligible journalists beyond newspaper journalists opened the prize to an enormous range of candidates,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard and chairwoman of Colby’s Lovejoy Award selection committee, in a press release from Colby.

“But Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson quickly became the consensus choice. Nelson’s work is of extraordinary quality by any standard, and she has accomplished so much so well working in societies where being a woman carries additional challenges. She is an inspiration.”

Also on the selection committee are Rebecca Corbett, deputy Washington bureau chief for the New York Times; Gregory Moore, editor of the Denver Post; Mike Pride, editor emeritus and columnist for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor; David Shribman, vice president and executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Stephen Engelberg, managing editor of Pro Publica; and Colby professor L. Sandy Maisel, director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement.

Due to Nelson’s commitments, she was not available for an interview Monday.

Nelson, who five years ago opened National Public Radio’s Kabul bureau in Afghanistan, is now based in Cairo. She covers the Arab world for NPR’s news programs, including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”

For more than three years in Afghanistan for NPR, Nelson provided listeners details about life there during wartime, according to her biography on www.npr.org. Her stories ranged from influences from Iran, Pakistan, and the United States on Afghan affairs to an increasing number of suicides among women in a tribal society where they are seen as second-class citizens.

She won a Peabody award, Overseas Press Club award and Gracie in 2010 for her coverage of Afghanistan.

NPR hired Nelson in 2006; for 20 years prior to that she had worked as newspaper reporter. Nelson was Knight Rider’s Middle East bureau chief, with a special focus on Iran, from 2002 to 2005.

Following the 9/11 attacks, according to npr.org, the Los Angeles Times sent Nelson on assignment to Iran and Afghanistan.

For three years Nelson was as an editor and reporter for Newsday; she was part of the team that won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for covering the crash of TWA flight 800 into the Atlantic Ocean near New York.

Nelson speaks Farsi, Dari, German and English.

Beth Staples — 861-9252

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