Voice of America’s brave journalists broadcasting to Afghanistan, as well as South and Central Asia Division Director and former Afghanistan and Pakistan bureau chief Ayesha Tanzeem, are the winners of this year’s David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award for their work surrounding the 2021 Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
As the Taliban advanced towards Kabul, VOA’s reporters on the ground, along with those in Washington, D.C., worked around the clock to cover the final days of Afghanistan’s democratically elected government and the first days of its new regime. Despite knowing all along that they could be targeted for their association with the Voice of America, they worked tirelessly to bring their audience in Afghanistan accurate and comprehensive news and information unavailable from other sources. At the same time, Ayesha Tanzeem reported in English from the Kabul airport as thousands of Afghans were trying to leave the country. However, Tanzeem did not act solely as a frontline reporter; she became a collector of critical, life-saving information that her colleagues used to find safe evacuation routes for themselves and their families, ensuring that some of Afghanistan’s top journalists can continue their vital work from abroad.
“Ayesha Tanzeem and our entire VOA Afghan team passed a difficult test last year,” said Acting VOA Director Yolanda Lόpez. “Thanks to their bravery and their unwavering commitment to press freedom, VOA has continued to provide news to Afghanistan, regardless of the Taliban’s repeated efforts to obstruct or halt our programs.”
With popular TV, radio and digital content in the Dari and Pashto languages, VOA reaches roughly 64 percent of Afghanistan’s adult population. VOA is one of the leading sources of daily news and information for Afghanistan’s population of nearly 37 million, as well as a large Afghan diaspora around the world.