WASHINGTON – The media environment in Radio Free Asia’s broadcast region further declined, according to Reporters Without Borders’s 2017 Press Freedom Index. Radio Free Asia (RFA) President Libby Liu said the report’s findings underscore the importance of RFA’s mission in countries that censor and restrict access to independent, reliable news and information. Seven of RFA’s nine language services operate in countries that were ranked in the bottom 10 percent of the survey, with North Korea ranked dead last, and China and Vietnam named the world’s biggest jailers of bloggers and journalists.
“In a year when RFA journalists and their sources have been subject to threats and intimidation, RSF’s Index verifies what we have seen on the ground as conditions only worsen,” Liu said. “With Vietnam arresting bloggers and citizen journalists, including an RFA videographer who remains in jail; Cambodian authorities targeting our Khmer Service as its reporters cover the coming elections; and Beijing aggressively cracking down on independent media in Hong Kong, RFA continues to witness an increased aggressive stance by governments seeking to silence independent voices.
“These findings underscore the crucial need among RFA’s audiences living under authoritarian rule for the honest, objective, and unbiased news that we work hard to provide.”
Of the 180 countries ranked, RSF’s annual survey put North Korea last, China at 176, Vietnam at 175, and Laos at 170. Cambodia was ranked 132, dropping four places from last year, and Myanmar at 131. The report cited continued worsening trends in Asia. China now has more than 100 bloggers and journalists detained as President Xi Jinping has stepped up efforts to retain complete control over internal news coverage.
Authorities in Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, and China actively police and punish social media users for posting and discussing “sensitive” topics. And news outlets in Cambodia, including RFA, face threats for publicizing the views of government critics, especially after the July 2016 assassination of well-known analyst Kem Ley – a frequent guest on RFA’s programs. RSF also reported on media freedoms in Hong Kong (which slipped four places), once a bastion for free press, to continue to decline with Chinese mainlanders purchasing Hong Kong media companies and reporters’ greater exposure to violence by “Chinese Communist Party henchmen.”
RFA provides accurate, fact-based news and information via short- and medium-wave radio, satellite transmissions and television, online through the websites of its nine language services, and social media such as Facebook and YouTube, among other widely used platforms in its countries of operation. RFA’s language services are Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, and Uyghur, in China; Burmese; Khmer (Cambodian); Vietnamese; Lao; and Korean.