Radio Free Asia (RFA) today commemorated the 15th anniversary of its first broadcast on this date in 1996. RFA President Libby Liu stressed RFA’s critical role of “bringing free press to closed societies” through its nine language services that provide accurate, objective news and information for people living in six Asian countries that restrict free speech and media freedoms.
“Since our first broadcast 15 years ago, Radio Free Asia has risen from a small band of broadcasters to become an award-winning global media organization operating in some of the world’s most challenging media environments,” Liu said. “Built on a rock-solid foundation of objective journalism, RFA prides itself on bringing free press to closed societies through our dedicated, professional team of reporters.”
Michael Meehan, the chair of RFA’s corporate board and a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, added, “RFA’s mission is more important than ever in this age of revolutionary communication changes that drive the global hunger for trustworthy, timely news and information. Audiences in Asia consistently turn to RFA as a credible news source and to express opinions and ideas without fear on the airwaves and online.”
RFA’s many highlights over the years include interviewing high-ranking North Korean defectors, breaking the news to the world about the Tibetan uprising in March 2008, launching the first weekly listener Q&A program with Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi after her release from house arrest last year, obtaining exclusive interviews from Chinese artist Ai Weiwei about his recent imprisonment, covering the landmark Khmer Rouge trial, and first reporting the incident that led to the Uyghur ethnic unrest in China’s Xinjiang region in the summer of 2009.
In addition to providing exclusives, RFA hosts call-in shows and discussions with experts on technology, health, human rights, and politics. This engages audiences on interesting, timely issues and perspectives to which they would otherwise have little, if any, access. Over the years, this multifaceted programming has earned numerous prestigious awards for RFA’s Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, Uyghur, Burmese, Korean, Lao, Cambodian, and Vietnamese language services, as well as RFA’s online multimedia team. These include multiple Edward R. Murrow and Gracie Allen awards, in addition to top prizes from respected organizations such as Amnesty International, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Society of Environmental Journalists, and the International Women’s Foundation, among others. In 2009, New York Festivals Radio Program and Promotion Awards, in an international competition, declared RFA “Broadcaster of the Year” and bestowed seven medals to its broadcasters and services.
Accolades have also come from opinion leaders in Asia, including the Dalai Lama (who recently visited RFA’s Washington headquarters), Aung San Suu Kyi, and Uyghur exile leader Rebiya Kadeer, among many others. Earlier this year, RFA launched its multimedia 15th anniversary website, which provides the behind-the-scenes story of its origins to the present (including the audio of its maiden broadcast by RFA’s Mandarin service).
“We at RFA are encouraged by the high praise and awards won since we began. But there is no greater validation of our work’s importance than the trust earned daily from our growing audiences,” Liu said.