2012 CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee
(Courtesy of CNN)
To watch Mae Azango’s acceptance speech, click here.
One of a small number of female reporters in her native Liberia, Mae Azango is also one of the most acclaimed journalists in the country. After her father was killed by rebels in 1990 during the country’s civil war, Azango pursued journalism as a way to give a voice to people’s suffering. Since 2002, upon returning from exile as a war refugee, she has exposed the plight of ordinary people, particularly women and girls, who have been victimized by issues that were long hushed in her society.
In 2010, Azango took on the taboo subject of female genital mutilation, a traditional practice so politically sensitive and entrenched in the culture that Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had deemed it untouchable. Azango began receiving threats, and with the authorities doing nothing to help, she and her 9-year-old daughter were forced into hiding for weeks. Throughout, she continued to report on the practice.
An international outcry erupted after Azango was threatened, which forced the government to reluctantly break their silence. For the first time, Liberian officials were forced to order the suspension of the practice, which affects as many as two out of every three Liberian girls.
Azango’s incisive reporting has also exposed police brutality against the mother of a rape victim, which resulted in the jailing of a police officer. She has worked with the Telegraph and the Daily Observer, and is now with the leading independent investigative news site FrontPage Africa. She is also a reporter with New Narratives, a reporting project that gathers leading African journalists to produce hard-hitting, investigative stories. In 2011, she won a grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting to conduct a field report on reproductive health.