Radio Free Asia (RFA) has marked 25 years of broadcasting which began when its first Mandarin-language program aired on September 29, 1996. RFA’s incisive brand of journalism since its inception has led to some of the most consequential stories from U.S-funded media. It was the first news outlet to inform the world about the creation of a prison state for Uyghurs in China’s Far West, the first to confirm the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi during Burma’s military’s coup, and exposed the Chinese government’s cover-up of COVID-19 fatalities last year in Wuhan, among other pivotal developments.
RFA President Bay Fang said: “Today we celebrate Radio Free Asia’s 25th anniversary. On this day in 1996, our inaugural Mandarin broadcast broke through the airwaves to listeners in China. In the years since, we’ve witnessed sweeping changes in history and technology, recasting how we connect, how we see each other, and how we share information.
“But we’ve also witnessed fragmentation, the sophisticated spread of disinformation, and a decline in media freedom around the world — as authoritarian regimes and other malign actors have changed and adapted with the times.
“This makes RFA’s incisive brand of journalism ever more important for the millions who count on us. We bring accountability. We bring answers. We empower our audiences.”
Today, RFA helps an estimated weekly audience of 59.8 million people access uncensored, independent news, information, and cultural programming otherwise ignored or blocked by governments hostile to a free press. Adding eight language services over the years — Tibetan, Korean, Burmese, Vietnamese, Khmer, Lao, Cantonese and Uyghur — RFA today serves audiences in China, North Korea, and Southeast Asia — regions ranked among the world’s worst media environments. Launched in recent years, RFA online affiliates BenarNews and WHYNOT/WAINAO expand its reach to populations in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as the younger Chinese-speaking global diaspora. On social media, RFA and its brands have more than 30 million followers/fans and its video content has been viewed 2.8 billion times this fiscal year (FY ’21) alone.
RFA’s work has earned widespread acclaim and recognition. Its exclusive reporting is frequently cited by BBC, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Atlantic, VICE News, FOX News, The South China Morning Post, Bangkok Post, and CNN, among many other global, local, and regional outlets. RFA has earned many honors, including National Murrow Awards, Gracies, and Hong Kong Human Rights Awards, and others from the Society of Professional Journalists, Alliance for Women in Media, Amnesty International, Hong Kong Journalists Association, and the New York Festivals for its reporting on the Rohingya, COVID-19, the Uyghur internment camps, and China’s media censorship, among other key topics. Due to the difficult media environments in which RFA operates and the sensitive nature of RFA’s work, its journalists often face serious risks. At present, current and former contributors and journalists are imprisoned in Vietnam and Cambodia, while dozens of RFA Uyghur journalists’ China-based family members are missing, detained, and jailed.
Bipartisan legislation commemorating RFA’s 25th anniversary and its accomplishments is being introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in the coming days.