Washington, D.C. — Today marks the 27th anniversary of Radio Free Asia (RFA), when our first broadcast of uncensored, accurate news reached listeners in China on the airwaves. Nearly three decades later, RFA has grown into a full-fledged, 21st century media company serving millions who lack access to a free press or are subject to authoritarian malign influence in Asia and around the world. RFA President Bay Fang highlighted RFA’s unique role and the power of storytelling.
“RFA’s incisive journalism brings to light crucial stories that would otherwise never be told. Our work empowers audiences with accurate and timely information, while also lifting those voices that would otherwise be silenced or lost,” Fang said. “Over the past 27 years regimes like China’s have evolved, erecting new information barriers and investing heavily in operations to spin false narratives for their own citizenry and beyond their borders.
“It is for this reason that RFA endures and grows. It is also why nearly 60 million people on a weekly basis in Asia and around the world access RFA’s reports, content, and programming.
“As we mark RFA’s anniversary, let’s recognize that this milestone isn’t about our past, but our future.”
This past year, RFA has remained on the forefront of reporting on some of the most consequential news stories of the past year. Most notably, RFA’s Chinese services played a critical role reporting on the anti-lockdown “White Paper” protests in late 2022, which generated record-breaking digital engagement across RFA Mandarin’s social media platforms. Moreover, RFA Burmese in collaboration with RFA Lao and RFA’s Investigative team produced an explosive report on the human trafficking of Lao teens, who are kidnapped, abused and forced to work in cyber-scamming sites along the chaotic Thailand-Myanmar border. RFA’s Investigative Team also published a deep dive into the secretive world of the Chinese Communist Party’s influence campaign on US soil. Other highlights include RFA Korean’s reporting on the special treatment of Kim Jong Un’s daughter Kim Ju Ae, RFA Uyghur’s coverage of the ongoing Uyghur genocide, and, through its Southeast Asian brand BenarNews, territorial tensions and big-power rivalry in the South China Sea and Pacific, among other key stories.
In 2023, the content and programming of RFA and its online brands 歪脑 | WHYNOT and BenarNews earned widespread acclaim, winning over 30 prominent prizes including a National Murrow Award, a Gracie Award, a Hong Kong Human Rights Press Award, 22 Tellys and five New York Festivals awards, among others. RFA reporting was also frequently cited in news outlets including The Guardian, BBC, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, the latter of which heavily cited RFA Burmese’s coverage in a piece on the military junta’s use of Telegram as it pursues a crackdown on dissent in Burma.
Due to the increasingly harsh media environments in which RFA operates and the sensitivity of its work, RFA journalists and contributors face serious risks. This year, an RFA Vietnamese contributor was sentenced to six years in prison, joining three other RFA Vietnamese journalists currently serving lengthy sentences. Two RFA Khmer contributors remain stuck in legal limbo in Cambodia. Meanwhile, dozens of family members of RFA’s Uyghur staff in China are incommunicado, detained, or imprisoned. Su Yutong, an RFA contributor and former human rights activist based in Germany, has been the target of a relentless campaign of suspected transnational repression.
Last week, commemorating its 27th anniversary, RFA hosted an event at the National Press Club of Washington, D.C. titled “The Power of Storytelling: Uyghur Tales of Survival,” premiering a docu-series that profiles Uyghurs living in exile. The series documents the resilience of individuals in the Uyghur diaspora who have escaped persecution to rebuild their lives far from their homeland – where, were it not for this project, their personal journeys would likely be unknown. This powerful storytelling taps into one of RFA’s guiding principles, as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”
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Contact Rohit Mahajan
Chief Communications Director,