The Liberian journalist Mae Azango has been living in fear since March 8, International Women’s Day, when a newspaper published an article she had written about the negative health implications of female genital cutting, which is practiced among a powerful secret women’s society in many of the country’s rural counties.
Says Azango: The callers warned that “they will grab me and put me in the Sande bush and cut me. And for putting my mouth in this business, I will pay for it.”
But that’s not stopping Azango.
“I won’t back away. Let me tell you that: I won’t back away,” she told us by telephone from Monrovia. “I am not saying I will do it today or tomorrow, but eventually I will do a story on it. Because this thing needs a lot of public awareness.”
Mae Azango, a reporter for the daily FrontPage Africa and New Narratives, a project supporting independent media in Africa, told CPJ she had gone into hiding after receiving several threats for an article she published on Thursday about Liberian tribes practicing female genital mutilation on as many as two out of every three girls in the country. “They left messages and told people to tell me that they will catch me and cut me so that will make me shut up,” Azango said. “I have not been sleeping in my house.”
Wade Williams, the editor of FrontPage Africa, said that several people around town had confronted her over the article, which was widely discussed on radio programs. Williams also said that the newspaper and its personnel were receiving threatening phone calls. “They said that for us putting our mouth into their business, we are to blame for whatever happens to us,” she said.
Azango is a regular contributor to Global Post and won a 2011 grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to cover reproductive health in Liberia.