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Mae Azango exposed a secret ritual in Liberia, putting her life in danger

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"People are saying we have exposed a secret, a women's secret, blah, blah, blah," Azango says. She had known there would be controversy. "I expected to get a tongue-lashing," she insists. But her editor had told her it was worse than anyone thought.

"You better move from Todee," she had told Azango, "because those people will grab you and put you in the Sande bush."

Azango and her editor understood what that would mean: They wanted to circumcise Azango. It would be a punishment for violating the taboo, and it would be an assurance that she'd never write about the topic again. Anyone who breaks the oath and tells others what happens in the bush is killed.

This wasn't your average reader's complaint. This was a death threat.

But Azango was supposed to come back to this village – the same place her editor says she's no longer safe – on Monday to finish the story.

"What will you do?" she was asked.

She laughed louder than she'd laughed all day.

The story was meant to provoke. After all, that's what Front Page Africa does. As Liberia's leading investigative daily, the paper publishes 1,500 copies a day, all printed overnight on an old-fashioned press, each copy folded by hand. But its audience is much wider: The newspaper usually sells out within hours, and as with a single copy of any of Monrovia's many daily papers it might pass through a half-dozen hands.

That's especially true when Front Page Africa tackles hot topics. Last year, Azango reported on an alleged rape by a Liberian national police officer. He went free for three months, even after the allegations were made – until Azango's story ran. The paper also published investigations into corruption, teenage prostitution, and other explosive issues.

The editor and publisher, Rodney Sieh, says Azango plays an important role in these efforts. "She knows how to get things done. She knows how to tell a story; she knows people," he says. "She knows how to interview people … an asset that most people here don't have."

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