Radio Free Asia (RFA) President Libby Liu said the report, which was issued on Wednesday, underscores a need for objective, unbiased and independent press in Asian countries with restricted media environments. Seven of RFA’s nine language services operate in countries that are ranked in the bottom 10 percent of the survey.
“In a year of Hong Kong booksellers being abducted, Burmese newspapers still operating under heavy restrictions and China’s leadership resorting to every means possible to coerce journalists both inside and outside the country, there are few surprises in RSF’s index,” Liu said. “While this worrisome trend continues, it should not go unheeded.
“Despite recent advances in technology and the growth of social media, ruling regimes in Asia continue to impose severe limits on their citizens’ access to objective, independent press,” Liu added. “Self-censorship also remains on the rise, even in countries with fewer restrictions such as Myanmar and Cambodia. The (RSF) report emphasizes the desperate need among RFA’s audiences for the accurate, reliable news and information that we provide.”
Of the 180 countries ranked, RSF’s annual survey put North Korea second to last at 179, China at 176, Vietnam at 175, and Laos at 171. Cambodia was ranked 128 and Myanmar at 143. The report cited China’s Communist Party taking repression to “new heights” with the detentions of prominent journalists, forced televised confessions, and threats to their family members. Myanmar’s overall score declined, with the report noting the limits of recent reforms and measures taken to improve media freedom and safety. Free press also continued to decline in Hong Kong, once considered a bastion of free press, with the buying of the territory’s news outlets by Chinese businessmen intent on toeing the mainland government’s line.
RFA provides accurate, fact-based news and information via short- and medium-wave radio, satellite transmissions and television, online through the websites of its nine language services and social media such as Facebook and YouTube, among other widely used platforms in its countries of operation. RFA’s language services are Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan and Uyghur in China; Myanmar; Khmer (Cambodian); Vietnamese; Lao; and Korean.
Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting and publishing online news, information, and commentary in nine East Asian languages to listeners who do not have access to full and free news media. RFA’s broadcasts seek to promote the rights of freedom of opinion and expression, including the freedom to “seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” RFA is funded through an annual grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
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