On World Press Freedom Day, we owe journalists ‘more than gratitude’: RFA President RFA marks World Press Freedom Day
Photo: RFA

On World Press Freedom Day, we owe journalists ‘more than gratitude’: RFA President

2024-05-02

Marking World Press Freedom Day, Radio Free Asia (RFA) President and CEO Bay Fang emphasized the importance of journalism and protecting free speech amid a global rise in authoritarianism in a video statement. Fang also cited the cases of jailed journalists, including an RFA Vietnamese blogger and an RFA contributor in Myanmar, as well as Alsu Kurmasheva from sister network Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), who has been jailed in Russia for 200 days. Excerpts follow:

“Press freedom is a human right—one that is integral to a healthy global society— but, sadly, as we are witnessing in Asia and around the world, it is not a guarantee.

“RFA stands with the brave individuals working tirelessly to rebuild public trust through fact-based journalism – for Evan Gershkovich, for Alsu Kurmasheva… [and] for award-winning Burmese filmmaker and RFA contributor Shin Daewe[.] 

… 

“We owe them more than gratitude.”

Growing pressure in Hong Kong 

As authoritarian actors have cracked down on independent media, RFA’s journalists have faced ever-increasing threats. Most recently, RFA was forced to close its physical Hong Kong bureau - which opened in 1996 - and restructure its operations there out of safety concerns for its staff with the passage of Article 23, the territory’s latest sweeping national security law which targets foreign individuals and organizations. RFA received statements of support from press freedom watchdogs like RSF, and a bipartisan group of Congressional members, including Rep. Michael McCaul, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, and Sen. Ben Cardin, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman.

Tensions in Vietnam

Earlier this year, authorities in Vietnam detained yet another RFA contributor, Nguyen Vu Binh, who joins four other RFA journalists currently detained in the country; RFA made a joint statement with PEN International, of which Binh was an honorary member, calling for his release. 

China’s transnational repression

Chinese authorities continue to target reporters beyond their borders, including RFA Uyghur journalists, who first reported on atrocities in Xinjiang, which the U.S. government later declared a genocide. As a result, dozens of our reporters’ China-based family members have been jailed or detained in the mainland. In a recent report, Freedom House highlighted numerous cases of RFA reporters - in addition to those with RFA’s Uyghur Service - caught in China’s transnational repression crosshairs. Freedom House’s report included profiles on Germany-based RFA Mandarin reporter Su Yutong, who has become a target of constant online abuse, and Tibetan acting deputy service director Tashi Wangchuk, who has suffered relentless harassment on social media, as well as smear campaigns and defamation attempts. 

Despite these challenges, RFA reporters - as well as those of our digital brands BenarNews and 歪脑 | WHYNOT - remain committed to delivering accurate, independent news. They will continue to serve millions of people in Asia living in oppressive places who would otherwise have little to no access to uncensored information.