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Maine's Colby College honors reporter who risked jail for refusing to reveal source

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WATERVILLE, Maine — The New York Times journalist who's receiving this year's Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for courageous journalism has faced down the prospect of jail for refusing to reveal a CIA source of classified information.

The Justice Department is trying to force reporter James Risen to testify at the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information. Risen used an unidentified source for his reports about a botched CIA effort to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Risen, who'll receive the award Sunday at Colby College, said he's honored to be recipient of the award named for a Colby graduate who died in 1837 while defending his press against a pro-slavery mob in Illinois.

"Elijah Lovejoy is one of my heroes, a man who fought for the freedom of the press at a crucial moment in American history," Risen told Colby College.

PHOTO: FILE - This undated file photo released by Columbia University shows New York Times reporter James Risen in New York.  Risen is being honored Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014,  for courageous journalism for facing down the prospect of jail for refusing to reveal a CIA source of classified information. The award is named for a Colby graduate who died in 1837 while defending his press against a pro-slavery mob in Illinois.  Risen and a colleague won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the National Security Agency. He also was part of a group that won a Pulitzer after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.  The federal government is currently trying to force him to testify at the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information.  (AP Photo/Columbia University, File)
FILE - This undated file photo released by Columbia University shows New York Times reporter James Risen in New York. Risen is being honored Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014, for courageous journalism for facing down the prospect of jail for refusing to reveal a CIA source of classified information. The award is named for a Colby graduate who died in 1837 while defending his press against a pro-slavery mob in Illinois. Risen and a colleague won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the National Security Agency. He also was part of a group that won a Pulitzer after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The federal government is currently trying to force him to testify at the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information. (AP Photo/Columbia University, File)

Past recipients include Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam, syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman, political columnist David Broder, Washington political reporter Bob Woodward and Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was honored posthumously after he was slain in Pakistan.

Risen and a colleague won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the National Security Agency. He was also part of a group that won a Pulitzer after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Risen has been in the news after prosecutors issued a subpoena seeking to force him to testify in the case of a former CIA officer accused of disclosing government secrets. News organizations have submitted a petition with 100,000 signers that calls on the Justice Department to drop its efforts against Risen.

Risen faced the prospect of jail until Attorney General Eric Holder said no journalists will be prosecuted for "performing ordinary newsgathering activities."

Nonetheless, the Justice Department is still trying to force Risen to testify. Risen argued that he has a right to protect his sources' identities.

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