Mandarin APR and Digital Teams , 2023 nominee
The APR and Digital teams’ combined work was a signature accomplishment for RFA in 2022, bringing news to audiences living under oppressive regimes. The teams broke the news of the protests earlier than any other major media outlet and newswire, and despite a ban on Twitter and heavy internet censorship, audiences accessed RFA’s news via VPNs, fueling record-breaking media engagement. Across all social platforms, RFA Mandarin broke previous records, many set with its coverage of the Party Congress meeting a month prior.
As waves of demonstrations began to intensify across all major Chinese cities, the APR and Digital teams monitored and reported on developments around the clock. They worked in tandem to publish full-scale and timely coverage as protests grew, signaling a large-scale social movement on par with the 1989 Tiananmen protests. APR’s reporters produced radio broadcasts and online reports and interviewed protesters in numerous cities, while the Digital team continually updated RFA Mandarin’s social platforms.
Amid Chinese authorities’ efforts to scrub sensitive content from the Chinese internet, RFA’s APR reporters worked with the digital team to identify and verify trending content and posts on Chinese social media. The digital team then reposted on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, which Chinese citizens were accessing with VPNs. RFA Mandarin’s first two news updates on the “White Paper” Movement, which depicted massive crowds of young protesters holding aloft blank sheets of paper, were posted earlier than any other known media outlet.
On Twitter, the service gained 17K followers on November 27 alone—the largest single-day increase for the account—only to be bested one day later with 24.1K new followers. One of the Digital Team’s Twitter videos depicting the historic protests garnered over 1M views in a single day. In all, the team posted a staggering 207 tweets in one week, increasing the rate of engagement (likes and retweets) 157% compared to the prior week and tripling its Twitter following, adding 74K followers. Web visits for RFA Mandarin doubled, while traffic from mobile Google searches increased by 233%. Their impactful coverage and social media engagement surges were recognized by major international news outlets, including The Washington Post, which cited RFA’s “record-breaking” digital engagement with a new generation of activists.