Each week, frayintermedia highlights a journalist doing good work on the continent and honours them as our #FaveOfTheWeek. Meet Bettie Johnson Mbayo, a Liberian journalist who has won awards for her work that covers women’s rights, health, economics, politics and corruption. She has uncovered several Liberian scandals over the years but continues to work undeterred by intimidation. Johnson Mbayo also runs SheWrites, SheLeads, a mentoring programme geared towards young women to help them amplify their voices through writing.
Q. How did you become a journalist?
A. In high school, I saw that there were issues that were not being discussed and, with that, I decided to become a journalist.
Most of the time, in my view, people are complacent in portraying women as victims and not survivors. And I feel that my kind of journalism should address this. Women should be portrayed positively relating to the jobs they do and the impact they have made in society.
Q. What stories have you done to amplify the voices of women?
A. A story that brought my name forth was when a lawmaker, a member of parliament, allegedly raped his 13-year-old niece. My thing was, these lawmakers should be the first kind of people to uphold laws and when that story was broken by a colleague of mine, I decided to do an in-depth investigation.
He was incarcerated and at that time, he wanted to contest for elections that same year. So one thing that his county told him was that you cannot be a rape suspect and come back to us informing us that you want to contest.
Q. Why do you choose to stay in the profession given all the difficulties to your own safety?
A. If there is no investigative journalist, the world would just go on a trail where no one would be held accountable. You would have a politician giving free promises and just going along with it. You would have more people in abject poverty. There are several times where I have been targeted for my profession. My spouse has also been targeted. As long as your story is true, you will have them attacking you.
Q. What advice would you share with budding journalists?
A. One thing I can say to young journalists is that they should be patient and mix with people who have been in the field of journalism for a longer time. The more you work along with them, the more your life will be impacted by the years of experience they have.