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Journalist Mae Azango moves a nation

UPDATE: Journalist Mae Azango on cold threats, hot stories (CPJ, 27 April 2012)

(CPJ/IFEX) - April 5, 2012 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Peter Nkanga/CPJ Africa Program

Liberian journalist Mae Azango's courageous reporting on female genital mutilation, which made her the target of threats and ignited international controversy, has forced her government to finally take a public position on the dangerous ritual. For the first time, Liberian officials have declared they want to stop female genital mutilation, a traditional practice passed down for generations. Involving the total or partial removal of the clitoris, the ritual is practiced by the Sande secret women's society. As many as two out of every three Liberian girls in ten out of Liberia's 16 tribes are subjected to the practice, according to news accounts.

"Government is saying this needs to stop," Gender and Development Minister Julia Duncan Cassell announced in an interview last week with Public Radio International's "The World." The minister was responding to a controversy sparked by Azango's March 8 article, which was published by the leading independent daily FrontPage Africa. The story, headlined "Growing Pains: Sande Tradition of Genital Cutting Threatens Liberian Women's Health," explored the practices of the Sande secret society.

But Azango's tenacity came with a price: People affiliated with the Sande secret society threatened the journalist with violence. Azango and her 9-year-old daughter were forced into hiding.

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