709 RFA’s Resident Cartoonist Rebel Pepper’s rendering of the women featured in the award-winning ‘The Women Against the State’ video.
Photo: RFA

Radio Free Asia Wins Murrow Award for ‘709’ Crackdown Video


WASHINGTON – Radio Free Asia (RFA) today was among the National Murrow Award winners named by the Radio & TV Digital News Association (RTDNA). RFA Mandarin’s video “The Women Against the State,” earned the distinction in the juried contest’s category of Excellence in Video. The video focuses on the aftermath of China’s “709” Crackdown – a nationwide roundup of lawyers and legal activists that began in July 2015 – and the wives of those still held in custody today.

“This piece, produced by Radio Free Asia’s Mandarin Service, focuses on an important and ongoing issue in China and holds authorities accountable,” said RFA President Libby Liu. “It gives a voice to the women who face severe intimidation tactics from their own government and whose stories are otherwise ignored by Chinese state media.

“RFA Mandarin’s digital team deserves full credit for this prestigious award. Their hard work to spotlight these brave individuals and share their stories speaks to Radio Free Asia’s critical journalistic mission.”

Beginning on July 9, 2015, the “709” Crackdown aimed to repress and intimidate lawyers and activists committed to legal reform and rights defense in China. RFA’s winning entry – which originally aired in July 2018 – explains the tactics that officials used in their crackdown, such as television broadcasts of forced confessions and refusing to meet with lawyers appointed by family members. The video also goes into the details of the difficulties and hardships that the women experience in their attempts to free their husbands. The Mandarin Service’s digital team interviewed Li Wenzu, wife of lawyer Wang Quanzhang, one of the more prominent individuals detained. RFA has reported on Wang’s case since he was arrested in July of 2015. While many of those detained under the “709” Crackdown have been reunited with their families, his whereabouts remain unknown to this day.

This marks the first time that RFA has won a National Murrow Award, having previously won at least seven Regional Murrow Awards in years past. The Mandarin Service video was produced by Cherry Cheng, Zhang Li, and Alex Zhang of the service’s digital team, which in late 2017 began to create short, social media-friendly videos that showcase in-depth journalism and solid data-based information. Topics addressed in their videos describe life in China, covering the social credit system, surveillance, socio-economics and unemployment, media and technology, civil society and the rule of law, and religion. The Mandarin Service’s YouTube channel recently surpassed 100,000 subscribers, notable given the challenge of reporting domestic news to a closed market. The award will be presented at RTDNA’s ceremony in New York City on Oct. 14.  Previous winners of the National Murrow Award include ABC News, The New York Times, CBS News Radio, The Washington Post, CNN, and NPR.