Radio Free Asia Highlights




The Tibetan Service was the first to report on many of the self-immolations among Tibetans protesting Beijing’s rule. Since the deadly protests began, 124 Tibetans have self-immolated despite heightened security. The service also reported on China compelling Tibetans and Tibetan-owned businesses to fly China’s national flag and display pictures of President Xi Jinping. Thousands have taken to the streets in protest.


The Uyghur Service covered the tightening of restrictions and targeting of China’s mostly Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. International media cited RFA’s reports on a violent clash at a police station in northwestern China. Chinese officials and police confirmed RFA reports that nine Uyghur youths armed with knives and sickles were killed after storming the police station in the Kashgar region. International outlets also quoted the Uyghur Service’s coverage regarding the Uyghur man who ploughed his car into crowds at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in October. RFA reported that the man may have sought revenge for a raid on a mosque in his hometown in the XUAR.


The Cantonese Service’s multimedia series, “Poisoned at the Source,” documented through undercover video the unsafe practices in China’s food industry. The series’ video focusing on the use of recycled “gutter oil” by street food vendors went viral on social media and global news sites, garnering over 2 million YouTube views. The service also published many citizen photos and videos of labor conflicts and protests over government land grabs in southern China.


The Mandarin Service covered the crackdown on journalists and editors in China over the publication of investigative reports on corruption and wealth of authorities and their family members. The service also reported the aggressive crackdowns on unofficial “house churches” in Beijing, Henan, Anhui, and Shandong, among other provinces. In addition, National Public Radio and other sources cited the service’s ongoing coverage of the forced confiscation of property in China. In some cases these resulted in the self-immolations of former homeowners, whose families expressed frustration at having no means of recourse to address their grievances over the loss of farmland and homes.


The Khmer Service extensively covered Cambodia’s national elections in July, with reports from every province. The service provided viewers with a front-row seat on news about the candidates, their campaigns, and the issues. Following the polls, when allegations emerged about ballot fraud, the service covered local and international queries and probes, and election reform talks. In addition, the service reported on jailed land rights activists serving time for protesting forced evictions.


The Vietnamese Service reported on the government’s surveillance of and campaign against online dissent and activism, as more bloggers and netizens were jailed. The country implemented harsh Internet restrictions, making it easier to crack down on bloggers and social media users. The service also covered land issues with the continued confiscation of property from its citizens.

RFA Myanmar

The Myanmar Service covered the many challenges besetting Myanmar as its parliament debated the establishment of a pro-reform, post-dictatorship charter that might allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to run for president in the next national election. Twice in 2013, PBS’s NewsHour featured the service’s video footage in reports about land confiscation issues and sectarian violence among Buddhists and Muslims. In addition, the service also reported on progress among Myanmar’s armed rebel ethnic groups in reaching a ceasefire agreement with the government.


The Lao Service reported on the case of missing Lao activist Sombath Somphone, believed to have died in police custody. Sombath was seen last in December 2012 at a police checkpoint. The service also covered controversies surrounding Laos’ dam projects, which have displaced citizens, threatened the environment, and drew criticism from neighboring countries.

North Korea

The Korean Service reported on changes taking place in North Korea’s political prison camps, with some expanding.  The service also covered international reaction and expert analysis on North Korea’s third nuclear test in February. Using defectors on staff, the service obtained information from inside North Korea about drug addiction, the circulation of counterfeit Yuan, and the popularity of South Korean mobile devices, among other developments in the dictatorship.


    • “I hear a lot of people on RFA call-in shows saying they feel helpless. There’s nothing they can do. There’s so much corruption among officials. I want to tell them there’s a lot they can do. First, they can tell their neighbors to listen to RFA. … In the near future, I think these people will discover they and their radios set to RFA will make a big difference.” – Chen GuangchengThe Mandarin Service provided detailed coverage of crackdowns on Chinese activists and petitioners leading up to China’s 18th Party Congress. In an interview at RFA’s Washington headquarters, Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng praised RFA for its coverage of human and civil rights issues in China. Commentator Jiang Weiping, a renowned journalist who spent six years in jail in China because of his reporting on the rise and misuse of power by Politburo member Bo Xilai, provided a stream of in-depth analyses of Bo’s downfall following corruption charges.
    • The Tibetan Service broke dozens of stories on the self-immolations against Chinese rule, involving more than 100 Tibetan men and women. RFA did exclusive reporting on thousands of students protesting the release of a Chinese booklet that disparaged the Tibetan language and ridiculed the self-immolations.
    • The Cantonese Service broke numerous stories on China’s food safety problems, pollution caused by power plants, and the lead poisoning of children. The service also documented cases of forced abortions, rural-urban disparities, and the problems of petitioners and migrant workers.
    • The Uyghur Service covered the continued disappearance of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region since 2009. RFA reported on restrictions imposed on Muslim Uyghurs engaging in religious practices during Ramadan, including an enforced ban on fasting for civil servants.
    • The Korean Service reported on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s first year in power, which was marked by human rights abuses and a tightening of border security aimed at deterring people from fleeing the country. The service also increased its use of North Korean defectors. RFA videographers interviewed North Korean women who were victims of the Chinese bride industry.
    • The Khmer Service covered violent crackdowns on villagers over land disputes and acts of intimidation against reporters, broadcasters, and human rights groups. The service devoted several broadcasts to the assassination of Chut Wutty, a prominent environmentalist.
    • The Lao Service reported on the sex trafficking of Lao girls to Thailand and took undercover footage of teenage girls working in a brothel in Vientiane. The service also reported on land concessions made to Chinese and Vietnamese companies by the Lao government and growing Chinese influence in the region.
    • The Vietnamese Service reported on mass demonstrations of farmers protesting inadequate compensation for land seized for state-backed development projects. The service also covered the arrests, trials, and sentencing of bloggers who spoke out about corruption and human rights abuses in Vietnam.The Burmese Service launched RFA’s first daily television program and covered a government crackdown on mass protests against a China-Burma joint venture copper mine.

RFA led coverage of deadly communal violence in western Burma, including video interviews with refugees. The service covered by-elections that led to Aung San Suu Kyi and her party winning seats in parliament.


At the 2011 New York Festivals® broadcast awards, RFA’s Korean Service won a gold medal for a piece titled, “New Year Celebrations Thousands of Miles from Home.” The program aired in February, featuring interviews with North Korean defectors living around the world as they reminisced about the families, friends, and lives they left behind.


  • The Burmese Service broke a continuous string of stories related to changes happening within Burma throughout the year, as the nominally civilian government made unprecedented overtures to implement long-sought human rights and free speech reforms. Notably, the service aired exclusive remarks by the country’s powerful censorship chief saying he would like to abolish restrictions on the press.
  • The Mandarin Service covered Beijing’s dramatic upward spike of detaining citizens, petitioners, and human rights lawyers and activists, arresting bloggers, harassing foreign journalists, barring independent candidates from running for local office, and implementing harsher restrictions on state-controlled media and the Internet. These collective measures were largely viewed as a nationwide crackdown in response to the revolutions that swept through countries in northern Africa and the Middle East. The Tibetan Service provided extensive coverage of tensions and events stemming from a standoff between armed police and monks at the Tibetan Buddhist Kirti monastery in the Chinese province of Sichuan. These included the more than a dozen self-immolations of Buddhist monks and nuns throughout the Tibetan regions in protest of Beijing’s rule. The service also covered the 2011 election of the Tibetan exile government, holding live candidates’ forums and being first to interview Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay immediately after he was declared the winner of the race. The Cantonese Service presented a 10-part broadcast report and online video series on pollution of China’s Dong River, a primary source of drinking water for 50 million people in southern China. The service, along with RFA Mandarin, also reported on protests and unrest in Inner Mongolia as people demonstrated en masse against Chinese rule and the environmental degradation of the region’s grasslands. The Uyghur Service reported on the continuing unrest in Urumqi and throughout China’s northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and Beijing’s targeting of ethnic Uyghurs through anti-terrorism rules and laws. The service exclusively covered instances of China exerting pressure on outside countries to extradite Uyghur refugees seeking asylum.
  • The Korean Service covered a series of moves strongly indicating the succession of power from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il to his son, Kim Jong Un. In addition, the service reported on the North’s nuclear program, and its sword rattling with neighbor South Korea that led to an exchange of artillery fire in August.
  • The Khmer Service provided comprehensive coverage of the UN-backed Cambodian trial of former Khmer Rouge officials, broadcasting the proceedings as well as interviewing rights groups representatives, victims’ families, and ordinary citizens. The service also covered illegal logging in the country’s rainforests and resulting protests against deforestation and government corruption.
  • The Lao Service covered the progress and delays regarding the construction of the controversial Thai-sponsored Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River. The project, temporarily halted, would have severe repercussions for local communities and economies that depend on the Mekong.
  • The Vietnamese Service provided coverage of the ongoing disputes between the government and Vietnamese Catholic church parishioners. In January, the service broke the news of a U.S. embassy official being beaten and turned away by police in an attempt to meet Vietnamese dissident Father Nguyen Van Ly, who is under house arrest.


At the 2011 New York Festivals® broadcast awards, RFA’s Korean Service won a gold medal for a piece titled, “New Year Celebrations Thousands of Miles from Home.” The program aired in February, featuring interviews with North Korean defectors living around the world as they reminisced about the families, friends, and lives they left behind.


  • With the naming of imprisoned Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo as the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, RFA’s Mandarin service covered Chinese reactions including the house arrest of Liu’s wife, as well as travel restrictions on Liu’s attorney, and Chinese rights lawyers and activists in the months ahead of the December ceremony.
  • The Tibetan Service provided in-depth reporting on the incident where Chinese police fired on a group of Tibetan environmental protesters and killed four in Sichuan province. RFA reports led to China’s official news agency Xinhua acknowledging the clash but said that police had fired warning shots and that a stray bullet had “accidentally” killed the protest leader.
  • The Uyghur Service broke the story of Laos deporting a family who fled China after the ethnic riots last year, raising concerns of Uyghur asylum seekers forced to return home where they likely face arrest and persecution.
  • The Cantonese Service broke the news that a nuclear power plant near Hong Kong had leaked radioactive iodine from an improperly sealed fuel rod. RFA’s report led to a change in policy regarding the notification of incidents at the Daya Bay plant.
  • The Nobel Peace Prize medal and diploma on an empty chair representing Nobel Peace Prize
  • laureate Liu Xiaobo after a ceremony honoring Liu at City Hall in Oslo, Norway, Friday Dec. 10, 2010
  • In July, the Korean Service broke the news worldwide about a poster in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang that suggests the dictatorship, despite public claims otherwise, was taking responsibility for the sinking of a South Korean navy ship, the Cheonan.
  • The Burmese Service began offering its listeners the opportunity to engage freed political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi on a weekly basis. The radio forum allows listeners to ask her questions on any subject of their choice.
  • The Vietnamese Service reported on how police and thugs in Con Dau beat scores of Catholic parishioners and killed one man in order to stop them from burying a woman in the local Catholic cemetery. The government had confiscated the land two weeks earlier to use for tourism development.
  • The Khmer Service reported on what Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen called the greatest tragedy since the Khmer Rouge–a stampede that broke out on the final night of the annual Water Festival killing hundreds and injuring many more. RFA’s reporters worked around-the-clock to produce programs live from the scene for the next several days.
  • The Lao Service reported on the ethnic minority Hmong who were deported to Laos against their will in December and wanted to go to a third country. Lao authorities had initially promised some would be allowed to leave Laos after returning, but later reneged on that promise.


  • The Society of Environmental Journalists awarded RFA First Prize for Outstanding Online Reporting on the Environment for its 2010 multimedia series “The Last Untamed River.” RFA’s investigative reporting on the Mekong River was reported in English and adapted into seven Asian languages.
  • RFA won the American Women in Radio & Television’s Gracie Allen Award in 2010 for its multimedia Web page devoted the struggle and plight of Uyghur women.
  • Reporters from RFA’s Vietnamese Service and Burmese Service won gold and bronze medals respectively at this year’s New York Festivals for entries that explored the issue of human trafficking in Asia.


  • During the July Uyghur demonstration, RFA closely covered events in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and throughout the mainland. RFA broke the news about the Guangdong factory riot that led to the protests. Despite the media blackout enforced by Chinese authorities, RFA continued to provide solid eyewitness news coverage cited by The Associated Press, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and South China Morning Post.”
  • In June the Mandarin Service covered the 20th anniversary of the crackdown of protesters in Tiananmen Square with interviews of survivors and multimedia images and exclusive video online. RFA covered the one-year anniversary of the deadly Sichuan earthquake and questions that remain, as parents of the children who died in a shoddily constructed school building attempt to bring their case before a Chinese court of law.
  • In June, the Cantonese Service reported on clashes between Han and ethnic minority Uyghur workers at a dormitory of a Hong Kong-owned factory in Shaoguan, Guangdong, resulting in the deaths of two Uyghurs and detention of hundreds of others. The service produced an exclusive series on child kidnapping in the region.
  • The Tibetan Service continued to break news with several stories on ongoing protests and unrest in Tibet, including resistance to Chinese officials’ attempts to organize Tibetan New Year celebrations.
  • The Burmese Service provided extensive coverage of the trial of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest. RFA interviewed her lawyer, U Kyi Win, whose request for the trial to be open to the public was denied.
  • The Korean Service aired an ongoing series of stories about official corruption in connection with the sale and export of North Korea’s mineral resources. They reported extensively on Pyongyang’s missile testing, and recent efforts to strengthen military ties with Burma’s military junta.
  • The Vietnamese Service reported on the reaction of the arrest of human rights activist Le Cong Dinh. Coverage of the ongoing dispute between the state and the Catholic Church was reproduced on blogs inside Vietnam with video from citizen reporters.
  • In April, the Khmer Service began webcasts of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal along with extended broadcast coverage. The service also reported on the Cambodian government’s ongoing campaign of legal intimidation against the country’s journalists.
  • Throughout the year, the Lao Service reported on Thai plans to forcibly repatriate 5,000 Hmong refugees back to Laos. RFA’s reporting included the May pullout of Doctors Without Borders from Huay Nam Khao camp and the swift Thai military operation that emptied the camp.
  • In addition to the RFA YouTube channel, all RFA services now have branded Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. RFA introduced cell-phone ready feeds for the Mandarin and Korean services and launched a special, comprehensive video series on the Mekong River ahead of the World Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen.


  • The Society of Environmental Journalists awarded RFA First Prize for Outstanding Online Reporting on the Environment for its 2010 multimedia series “The Last Untamed River.” RFA’s investigative reporting on the Mekong River was reported in English and adapted into seven Asian languages.
  • RFA won the American Women in Radio & Television’s Gracie Allen Award in 2010 for its multimedia Web page devoted to the struggle and plight of Uyghur women.
  • Reporters from RFA’s Vietnamese Service and Burmese Service won gold and bronze medals respectively at this year’s New York Festivals for entries that explored the issue of human trafficking in Asia.
  • The jury of the 2009 New York Festivals voted RFA ‘Broadcaster of the Year.’ RFA won an unprecedented seven medals for journalistic excellence. Four of Radio Free Asia’s nine language services won top honors for excellence in journalism in the international competition, which included three gold, one silver, and three bronze medals.

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