Ayesha Tanzeem, 2016 winner
In the fall of 2015, Ayesha Tanzeem, the VOA News Center’s South Asia correspondent, traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan for an extended reporting trip that tested her courage, her planning and her knowledge of the country’s culture, politics and security threats.
The stories she produced gave a rare, detailed look at the inroads Islamic State militants have made in Afghanistan. The trip was taken at considerable risk to herself, as she easily could have been a target for kidnappers or militant fighters.
She traveled in disguise, wearing a burqa, to do exceptional reporting in dangerous areas. She pretended to be married to the fixer and traveling with him to “assist” in his reporting. Tanzeem often had to avoid speaking where others could hear her, because, while she speaks fluent Urdu, her Anglo-American accent and lack of fluency in Pashto, could have put them all in extreme danger.
Each piece, during her trip, was written with great sensitivity and rich context, to show how average Afghans continue to struggle against extremism and violence in their country.
At other times, even while with Afghan National forces, she had to wear body armor and run in a crouch from a car to a building because of the risk of snipers. This trip required Tanzeem to plan for the security not only for herself but also for her fixer/shooter, Rahim Gul Sarwan, a long-time shooter with our Afghan service.
South Asia correspondent
Tanzeem became VOA’s South Asia correspondent in Islamabad, in early 2015. Before that, she had worked for several years with the South and Central Asia Division. Her previous experience includes time working for the BBC. She is a native of Pakistan and speaks Urdu, which gives her a unique perspective into the region.
In addition to covering an extremely challenging region, Tanzeem has been tasked on short notice to travel to help cover other major stories. In 2015, she was crucial to the extensive coverage of the European migrant crisis. She worked closely with both News Center and South Asia Division colleagues to stay on top of a fast-moving story.
VOA News Center managers said Tanzeem exemplifies the courage and journalistic skill that is a hallmark of VOA correspondents overseas. Her reporting in Afghanistan displayed an in-depth knowledge of the country and its people, and the threats they face every day. It took extreme courage, as she risked her life to bring to the world their stories. Her work took cool, steady planning, yet shows a passion for her subject.