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Journalist who wrote about genital mutilation forced into hiding

Journalist Mae Azango has been threatened repeatedly for her story on female genital mutilation
Journalist Mae Azango has been threatened repeatedly for her story on female genital mutilation

New Narratives

A woman journalist who reported on the practice of female genital mutilation in Liberia has gone into hiding after receiving death threats, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Mae Azango, a reporter for the daily "FrontPage Africa" and New Narratives, a project supporting independent media in Africa, published an article on 8 March describing how tribes carry out female genital mutilation on as many as two out of every three girls in the country.

After the article was published, Azango received death threats that forced her to leave her home. "They left messages and told people to tell me that they will catch me and cut me so that will make me shut up," she told CPJ.

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 programmes. 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," Wade told CPJ.

National Police Deputy Director Al Karley said he had made Azango's case a high priority.

CPJ has appealed for help from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, "as Africa's first and only female head of state and a champion of women's rights."

"We believe your political leadership is required to ensure the government will take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of this journalist," said CPJ in the letter.

Female genital mutilation is a taboo subject in other parts of Africa, too. In 2010 in the Gambia, authorities arrested women's rights activist and journalist Amie Bojang-Sissoho and Dr. Isatou Touray with the Gambia Committee on Traditional Harmful Practices, an organisation that campaigns against female genital mutilation and other discriminatory practices. They were freed only after international media drew attention to their case but they remain on trial on trumped-up charges of embezzlement, reports the World Organisation Against Torture.

In February 2009, four female journalists were taken hostage in Kanema, Sierra Leone, by members of a traditional female group called the Bondo Society, reported Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). The group contested the journalists' reporting of female genital mutilation practices in the county.

Popular reggae singer Tiken Jah Fakoly has been threatened and banned from his home country Côte d'Ivoire for singing songs on controversial issues, including female genital mutilation.
Read Azango's article, "Growing Pains: Sande Tradition of Genital Cutting Threatens Liberian Women's Health", here.

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