Radio Free Asia Commemorates 15 Years of “Bringing a Free Press to Closed Societies”

On Sept. 29, Radio Free Asia (RFA) will commemorate the 15th anniversary of its first broadcast on that date in 1996. Since its launch, RFA has been providing accurate and objective news and information for people living in six Asian countries that restrict free speech and media freedoms.

RFA’s many highlights over the years includes 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 democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi after her house arrest ended last year; obtaining exclusives from Chinese artist Ai Weiwei about his recent imprisonment; covering the landmark Khmer Rouge trial, and being the first to report the incident that led to the Uyghur ethnic unrest in China’ Xinjiang province in the summer of 2009.

In addition to these, as well as hosting call-in shows and discussions with experts on technology, health, human rights, and politics, RFA’s diverse programming engages audiences in China, Burma, North Korea, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam on interesting, timely issues and perspectives to which they would otherwise have little, if any, access. Audiences respond often by providing RFA with news tips, video and images, as citizen journalists and sources, alerting RFA reporters to investigate potentially news-worthy incidents and situations unfolding in their neighborhoods, towns, and cities.

Through this coverage, RFA’s Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, Uyghur, Burmese, Korean, Lao, Cambodian, and Vietnamese language services, in addition to the organization’s online multimedia team, have earned numerous prestigious awards over the years. These include multiple Edward R. Murrow and Gracie Allen awards, as well as top prizes from respected organizations such as Amnesty International, Hong Kong Journalists Association, Society of Environmental Journalists, and the International Women’s Foundation, among others. In 2009, New York Festivals international broadcast awards declared RFA “broadcaster of the year” after bestowing seven medals to its broadcasters and services.  

Accolades have also come from opinion leaders in Asia, including the Dalai Lama, 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.