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Reporting on genital mutilation draws threats

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, March 9, 2012 - The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Liberian authorities to ensure the safety of journalists who have been repeatedly threatened for exposing the practice of female genital mutilation in the country.

Mae Azango, a reporter for the daily FrontPage Africa and the news website New Narratives, 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 told CPJ that she had notified police and was waiting for an investigation to begin. Liberia's deputy police director, Al Karley, told CPJ that the investigators would look into the threats.

"Liberian police must immediately investigate these threats and ensure the safety of Mae Azango and other FrontPage Africa staff," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "The people behind these threats seem to be secure that they can act with impunity. Authorities must send a clear message that threats of violence are crimes, and that they will uphold the law."

Azango won a grant from the U.S.-based Pulitzer Center in November for reporting on reproductive issues, FrontPage Africa reported.
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