Marking World Press Freedom Day, Radio Free Asia (RFA) President Bay Fang reiterated the vulnerability of front-line journalists and the shared duty to protect them amid a global rise in attacks on independent media. This year’s theme of freedom of expression as a driver of all rights speaks to RFA’s founding mission and its sustained role as a trusted news source for a weekly audience of almost 60 million in some of the world’s most repressive places.
“Freedom of the press is the backbone of a free society, the open sharing of ideas and information critical to upholding the rule of law and safeguarding human rights. But today, on the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day, those very liberties are under siege,” Fang said. “Authoritarian regimes increasingly harass, threaten, and detain journalists and their families in an effort to suppress the truth from their citizens and the world.
“Empowering people with knowledge and facts about their communities and beyond is the goal of independent journalism. We must rise to meet this moment to ensure the safety and well being of reporters at all costs.”
In RFA’s target regions, press freedom continues to decline, as malign actors in China, North Korea, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and elsewhere, target independent media. Notably, Chinese authorities have detained and jailed family members of RFA’s Uyghur Service, while RFA journalists in Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Europe have either been imprisoned, harassed, or investigated, or have endured transnational repression. Many of these journalists are highlighted in a special series and feature page, launched today on RFA’s website and its social media platforms.
Despite the challenges they face, RFA’s reporters produced some of its most impactful work over the past year. Most notably, RFA’s Chinese services’ timely coverage of the historic “White Paper” protests in China led to record-breaking engagement on social media, as audiences distrustful of state narratives turned to RFA for information. Their timely coverage of the protests was also lauded by The Washington Post editorial board. Additionally, RFA Myanmar’s in-depth investigation into a cache of gruesome photos and videos on a junta soldier’s lost cell phone, served as the first piece of hard evidence of the Myanmar military’s brutality and war crimes in the Sagaing region. Other highlights include RFA Khmer’s investigation into a Chinese detainee-turned Cambodian diplomat’s hidden stake in a major English soccer club, and RFA Vietnamese’s extensive coverage of a major price-gouging scandal involving Covid-19 tests that toppled several senior officials in the country.