CPJ urges Liberia to protect threatened journalist

March 13, 2012

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President of the Republic of Liberia
Executive Mansion
P.O. Box 9001
Capitol Hill, Monrovia
Republic of Liberia

Dear President Johnson Sirleaf:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by threats made against Liberian journalist Mae Azango, who has been in hiding since last week after she reported on the practice of female genital mutilation. We urge you, Madam President, as Africa’s first and only female head of state and a champion of women’s rights, to direct the Liberian authorities to ensure her safety and fully investigate the threats made against her.

Azango, a reporter for the daily FrontPage Africa and New Narratives, a project supporting independent media in Africa, published an article on March 8 entitled “Growing Pains: Sande Tradition of Genital Cutting Threatens Liberian Women’s Health.” The article described how tribes practice female genital mutilation on as many as two out of every three girls in the country. Although March 8 was International Women’s Day, the publication of the article was followed by death threats against Azango. “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. “I have not been sleeping in my house.”

National Police Deputy Director Al Karley told CPJ today that he had made Azango’s case a high priority. However, 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.

We ask you, Madam President, to use the moral authority of your office to speak out against the threats made against Azango, and to ensure that other journalists taking on this sensitive topic do not suffer the same fate.

We look forward to your response.

Joel Simon
Executive Director