Monrovia — For the first time, Mae Azango, one of Liberia's well known female journalist, has finally won the Press Union of Liberia Women Rights award after winning several international awards in the past including the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect journalists, (CPJ) in New York in November 2012, The International Press Freedom Award from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, (CJFE) in Canada in December 2012.
She also won the voice of the Voiceless award from Campaign against Genital Mutilation, (CaGEM) in New York in June 2012.
Due to her personal experience during difficulties in childbirth in 1990 won her Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Grant Award in 2011 to travel to Dakar, Senegal to attend the International Conference on Family planning.
And that opportunity opened other avenues for her to attend and speak at the Women Deliver Conference in Kuala Lumpier Malaysia in May 2013, and the International Family Planning Conference at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in November 2013, where she also delivered a statement.
Journalist Azango also attended the World Press Freedom Day, organized by UNESCO in Costa Rica, Southern America in May 2013. And in April of this year, she attended and spoke at the International Press Institute (IPI) World Congress in South Africa.
"It is usually said a prophet is never respected in his own home, because I have received several awards internationally but not one in my own home. But it is rather better late than never to win this award, because I put my eggs in nearly all the baskets when I put in my entries, so I was bound to win an award," says Azango.
Azango's winning the women Rights award did not come as a surprise because of her coverage on several women's issues on rape, prostitution, Domestic violence, Sexual and Gender Based Violence that has transformed some victim's lives, including a maternal column in the Front Page Africa Newspaper in Liberia.
Azango became well known when she wrote about the dangers and health implications surrounding Female Genital Cutting, which was published on International Women's Day in 2012.
And that reporting led to her going into hiding, after receiving death threats from some traditional Zoes or (spiritual leaders) in the country.
Meanwhile, the Publisher of the New Republic Newspaper has criticized the granting of the prestigious 'Journalist of the Year 2014, to immediate past president of the journalist union and current president of the West African Journalist Association WAJA, Mr. Peter Quaqua.
The paper said Quaquadoes not deserve to be journalist of the year in Liberia because his duties as head of the Union in 2013 do not allow him to be.
On Friday, the Press Union of Liberia 2014 awards committee awarded Quaquaas journalist of the year at a ceremony in Monrovia.
"I do feel for Quaqua, because it is his name that matters here," he said. "I have nothing personal against Quaqua. He is a smart young man who once worked for me. But to be awarded journalist of the year award, it was a sad mistake for the committee. The committee didn't say on what grounds Mr. Quaqua was awarded such position. It did not say what criteria were used for his selection."
Al-Gblor Toweh said, Quaqua's selection was ludicrous and a complete disservice to the media profession. "I am of the strong conviction that Quaqua is unfit for the award; Not that he is not competent; but he is not a practicing journalist. More besides, he was rather head of PUL."
He said, the Awards committee made a serious error in their selection. Toweh said he is not blaming Mr. Quaqua for that, but rather the committee has decided to expose their level of dishonesty, insincerity and cronyism to the public.
He said, if the PUL wants to pacify Quaqua for his past work at the Union, they should do so at a different time. Mr. Toweh said,the Chairman of the Awards Committee, Mr. Mike Bautchar and another member, are from the Liberia Media Center-a place Quaqua served as the immediate past board chairman.
"But I am not looking at that. The committee's work could bring many things to mind-either the awards were given to serve as a payback time for Quaqua; support for his ascendency to the WAJA position; maintenance of cronyism system," he said.
"But I think the committee made a sad mistake. By the selection of Quaqua, they have rather exposed their level of unprofessionalism, incompetent and egotistic side." Mr. Toweh said, he is strongly advising Quaqua not to accept the award, as he does not deserve it. "It is just a sad mistake that the committee will embark on this embarrassing journey," he said.
Winners of the Press Union of Liberia 2014 Awards
Peter Quaqua, Journalist of the Year
Evelyn Kpadeh, Human Rights Reporter & Development Reporter - Broadcast
Roland Perry, Development Reporter - Print
Varmah Kamara, Sports Reporter
Prince Collins, Business & Economics Reporter
Mae Azango, Women Rights Reporter
Anthony Stephens, Environmental Reporter
In-Profile Daily, Newspaper of the Year
ELBC, Radio Station of the Year
Power TV, TV Station of the Year
Bongese, Bong County, Community Radio of the Year
These categories either did not have sufficient applicants or the entries did not meet the requisite criteria
Reporting Female Sports