RFA President Calls for Justice for Journalists on World Press Freedom Day This year's World Press Freedom Day marked by declines in Asia as authoritarians intensify media controls.
Photo: RFA

RFA President Calls for Justice for Journalists on World Press Freedom Day


WASHINGTON -- Marking World Press Freedom Day amid alarming global trends toward the spread of disinformation and a growing distrust in fact-based journalism, Radio Free Asia (RFA) President Bay Fang renewed a call for an end to the persecution of reporters. Highlighting the darkening media environments in Hong Kong and Myanmar, Fang urged for the protection of the independence of news outlets and safety of journalists.


“The brutal decline of press freedom during the pandemic underscores an urgent need for responsible journalism, which should never be on trial. Increasingly sophisticated tactics employed by censors in Hong Kong, Myanmar, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and Vietnam, mean that RFA’s reporting has become ever more crucial in filling the gap for local news,” Fang said. “In Myanmar, the military junta has shuttered all domestic independent media outfits, depriving Burmese citizens of trustworthy information when it’s needed most. 


“Authorities in Vietnam and Cambodia have unjustly charged and jailed former RFA contributors for their work amid wide-ranging crackdowns on critics and citizen journalists. The Chinese government has gone so far as to make an RFA Uyghur journalist the target of a smear campaign while pursuing an endless persecution of her and her colleagues’ families. The recent arrests and prosecutions of Hong Kong journalists have all but blighted hopes of a local free press surviving in the territory for much longer. 


“As RFA marks its 25th consecutive year of bringing free press to closed societies in Asia, we reiterate the essential role of journalism in lifting up the voices of the unheard and holding the powerful accountable to those they purport to serve.”


In Vietnam, RFA contributors Nguyen Tuong Thuy, Truong Duy Nhat and Nguyen Van Hoa are serving sentences of 11, 10 and seven years respectively. In Cambodia, former RFA journalists Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin have remained in a legal limbo two years after a judge ordered their re-investigation, despite a prior investigation finding no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing. And in China’s Uyghur region, relatives of at least eight RFA journalists have been detained in retaliation for RFA’s Uyghur Service’s explosive coverage of the internment of over a million Uyghurs and other minorities in the province. Chinese authorities made unfounded accusations against RFA Uyghur journalist Gulchehra Hoja as part of a smear campaign against expatriate Uyghurs who have publicly spoken out about the prison state in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. 


In commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, RFA also launched a social media campaign emphasizing a free press’s role in ensuring transparency. Across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the campaign highlights recent RFA exclusives -- from the exposure of police brutality against Burmese protesters and volunteer medics, to the disappearance of Chinese whistleblowers who aimed to tell the world about COVID-19, and many more -- that shed light on events that otherwise would be blotted out by censors.


In its recently released 2021 Press Freedom Index, media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) noted a general “dramatic deterioration in people's access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage” around the world, and highlighted the seriousness of the situation in Asia. The report cited the rising threats to free press in Hong Kong (which dropped seven places in the global rankings to 80th place) in its assessment of China (ranked 177th out of 180 countries). The report also pointed out China’s increased efforts to promote its own repression as a model for other nations’ governments to squash independent journalism and dissent.