Mae Azango is one of the best known reporters in Liberia. Her consistent dedication to telling the stories of ordinary Liberians in FrontPage Africa newspaper has won her acclaim in Liberia and around the world. In March 2012 Mae was forced to go into hiding after her report on the practice of female genital cutting by Liberia’s traditional societies brought death threats against her, her 9-year-old daughter and FrontPage Africa. She was the subject of an international campaign led by the Committee to Protect Journalists and including Amnesty International, The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and press freedom and women’s rights activists around the world demanding the government ensure her safety. After three weeks government ministers and traditional leaders came forward for the first time to denounce female genital cutting and commit to ending the practice in the country.
Mae’s courageous reporting was rewarded with the 2012 International Press Freedom awards from the Committee to Protect Journalists and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
Since joining NN as one of our first “fellows” in July 2010, Mae’s reporting has forced the president to intervene in a case of police brutality against the mother of a rape victim. She has also exposed delicate societal issues such as teen pregnancy and child rape, long considered taboo. Mae was the first reporter to interview Liberian mercenaries who admitted to murdering civillians in Ivory Coast’s 2010 election crisis. She also tackles major political and economics stories. Mae has contributed to Global Post and Foreign Policy magazine. She won a 2011 Pulitzer Center grant to cover reproductive health in Liberia.
Mae’s experiences in Liberia’s long years of civil war heavily influence her reporting. Her father Robert G.W. Azango was an Associate Justice of Liberia’s Supreme Court in 1990 when rebels, led by Charles Taylor, invaded the capital. Rebels dragged Mr. Azango from his house where he was having breakfast with his family. Still wearing his pajamas, Mr. Azango was jailed and beaten. He later died from his injuries.
Mae is determined to give Liberian women access to the information about family planning and maternal healthcare that she did not have as a young mother. Mae was just 17 when she gave birth to her first child. Cut off from hospitals by fighting, she nearly bled to death because of the superstitious beliefs of the traditional midwife who attended to her.
She says, “I am a journalist because there are a lot of people suffering. Who hears them? No one, unless I go and record their voices.