By: Joanna Hoffman, Woman Deliver
Pulitzer-Center grantee Mae Azango has gone into hiding after receiving death threats in response to an article she published last Thursday in FrontPage Africa. Azango bravely reported on female genital mutilation (FGM) in rural Liberia, and the devastating, and sometimes deadly, aftereffects it can produce.
Ten out of Liberia’s 16 tribes practice FGM, accounting for up to 85% of the country’s population. Often, cutting takes place in an unsanitary environment with unsterilized tools, which can lead to infection, tetanus, and HIV transmission. If fresh tissue is cut and not stitched up, excessive bleeding can lead to shock and death.
Both Azango and the editor of FrontPage Africa, Wade Williams, have been threatened for bringing attention to FGM. "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."
Azango has contacted police, and is waiting for an investigation to begin. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for Liberian police to ensure the safety of Azango and other FrontPage Africa staff.
"The people behind these threats seem to be secure that they can act with impunity,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Authorities must send a clear message that threats of violence are crimes, and that they will uphold the law."