RFA President affirms urgency of global press freedom amid rising authoritarianism: ‘Choice couldn’t be clearer’
Washington, D.C. — Marking World Press Freedom Day amid rising authoritarianism and escalating dangers facing journalists, Radio Free Asia (RFA) President Bay Fang pledged RFA’s steadfast commitment to informing publics in Asia deprived of a free press and free expression.
“On World Press Freedom Day, the choice couldn’t be clearer: Whether we allow authoritarians to define this era, letting them have the last word, or whether we challenge their false narratives and propaganda in pursuit of the truth,” Fang said. “As we witness the collapse of independent media in Burma and Hong Kong, in addition to its deterioration throughout Asia, we at RFA recognize the urgency of our mission-driven responsibility to those seeking answers, accountability, and empowerment.
“This crucial moment in history demands nothing less of us than doing everything in our power to advance the cause of press freedom in the face of ever-growing threats.”
In RFA’s media region, where press freedom groups have monitored continuous decline over the last decade, reliably semi-open markets in Burma and Hong Kong dramatically transformed overnight into closed environments within the past year. Nevertheless, audiences – estimated to be nearly 60 million on a weekly basis – turn to RFA as a trusted source of accurate on-the-ground news and information. This is evidenced in soaring engagement across its platforms, including on its Burmese and Cantonese social media channels – which recently have seen quadruple- and triple-digit percentage growth. RFA has also made significant impacts monitoring the on-the-ground fallout of China’s “zero-Covid” policy in Shanghai and Beijing, exposing China’s role in spreading Russian disinformation on Ukraine in Taiwan, providing continuous coverage and analysis of the Uyghur tribunal in 2021, reporting on South China Sea territorial disputes, and alerting the world to North Korea’s enforced ban on outside media, including breaking the news about severe punishments for individuals caught sharing video files of the viral South Korean series, ‘Squid Game.’
In addition, to aid its journalistic efforts to push back on authoritarian propaganda, RFA will utilize a late-year budget increase to expand its programming and content in China, Southeast Asia, and globally. Plans include launching an investigative unit to expose malfeasance and ensure accountability; creating a fact-checking unit to counter falsehoods in real time, initially focusing on Chinese social media; and expanding RFA’s China services, particularly RFA Uyghur and Cantonese. RFA also plans to grow its award-winning global Mandarin digital brand, 歪脑 | WHYNOT; increase capacity to cover Chinese activities in Southeast Asia; provide more up-to-the-minute English content; and expand RFA’s Creative Team for multimedia storytelling. These enhancements also include upgrading critical digital infrastructure and technology to support newsroom operations.
Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting and publishing online news, information, and commentary in 9 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 by an annual grant from USAGM.
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