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VOA Stories Win Two Headliner Awards

VOA journalist Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the airport in Kabul during the chaotic fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban August 2021.

Voice of America journalists won in two National Headliner Awards categories, the competition that honors the best reporting in the United States in 2021.

The press freedom project “The Mechanism” took second place for “digital presentation of a single features project,” with bilingual coverage of threats on journalists in Mexico, and the government’s attempt to protect reporters. Every 12 hours, a journalist in Mexico is threatened. Between 2012 and 2021, 31 journalists were killed, many threatened and kidnapped. VOA’s English and Spanish newsrooms knew many important moments could never be captured on video or in a photo.

The reporting team, Cristina Caicedo Smit, Victor Castillo, Guadalupe Rincon, Jessica Jerreat and Amy Reifenrath, chose Brian Williamson’s artistic illustrations to relate the experience of a reporter who was kidnapped from the scene of a news story and threatened with execution.

“I’m especially pleased for the recognition VOA journalists are getting for their work promoting press freedom, in the case of ‘The Mechanism,’” said Acting VOA Director Yolanda López. “I am exceptionally touched by the award multiple journalists in VOA got for their coverage of the withdrawal of the U.S. military from Afghanistan, as so many of our own colleagues were directly affected by this news event.”

VOA won third place for continuing coverage of a major news event by “broadcast television networks, cable networks and syndicators” with a submission named, “Mission's End: War and Withdrawal in Afghanistan.”

VOA journalists Carla Babb, Ayesha Tanzeem, Kane Farabaugh, and Arif Aslan filed on many aspects of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. The entry was a compilation of coverage from on the ground in Afghanistan, across the U.S., to the Pentagon, as the U.S. military prepared to leave and the Taliban swept back into power. Reporting ranged from the unfolding crisis at Kabul airport, to veterans who had fought in Afghanistan, to those newly arrived back on U.S. soil.

The National Headliner Awards were founded in 1934 by the Press Club of Atlantic City and are considered among the most prestigious journalism awards in the U.S.