Cameroon, I learned this week, is one of the most corrupt places on earth. And Agnes Taile, a journalist who has recorded the scope and impact of that corruption since she was a teenager, is a one-woman army against it.
Taile fights the corruption by running a Cameroon newspaper, Le Septentrion Info, based in Central West Africa, that tells stories about people’s daily lives. But she lives in upstate New York because she cannot live safely in her own country.
She was in Los Angeles this week to speak at a conference about women’s leadership held by the Greenberg Traurig law firm, and I was asked to interview her. I knew she would be an interesting person, since she’d won the prestigious Courage Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation in 2009.
But I was little prepared for the power of Taile’s story, which she told both at the conference and at a speaking engagement Friday at TheWrap.
Arrested for reporting on corrupt election results on one occasion, harassed by constant threatening phone calls (“Stop it,” says the unidentified person at the other end of the line) and in 2006 dragged from her bed by thugs and left injured in a ravine, Taile was unbowed then, and thus she remains.
“When I woke up someone was in my bedroom. I heard the door. I thought it was my son going to the bathroom. When I sat up in the bed, a man was in my bed. He was wearing a mask. He said, ‘You have to follow me.’ He grabbed me, my feet weren’t even touching the floor. They took me downstairs, out of the house … and threw me in a ravine.”
I asked her why she was not afraid to continue doing journalism. She replied, with a calm smile, that we are all going to die but that while we live, our lives ought to be worth something.
TheWrap has pledged a $5,000 founding donation to help Taile purchase a printing press to increase distribution of her paper. The IWMF will act as fiscal sponsor for the contributions. For information email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Agnes Taile.
Here's an excerpt of her talk at TheWrap’s offices:
Video by Rebecca Rosenberg
Full disclosure: I serve on the board of the IWMF.