RFA is a private, nonprofit corporation that broadcasts news and information to listeners in Asian countries where full, accurate, and timely news reports are unavailable.


Radio Free Asia history

On January 25, 1997, the China Daily published this cartoon, making fun of RFA, calling the radio "The gentleman with the long tongue." The text reads (going in the head) rumours, twist and slant, and (around the mike) Radio Free Asia.

Radio Free Asia was founded on March 12, 1996, under the provisions of the 1994 International Broadcasting Act (P.L. 103-236), as a private non-profit corporation. RFA is funded by an annual grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Its mission is outlined by legislation. Acting as a substitute for indigenous free media, RFA concentrates its coverage on events occurring in and/or affecting the countries to which it broadcasts.

Richard Richter was its founding president. A distinguished broadcast journalist, Mr. Richter retired during the summer 2006. Today’s RFA president is Libby Liu, who brings a long career in law and non-profit administration to her office. Daniel Southerland, vice president of programming and executive editor, also a member of the founding team, is a veteran newspaperman who has reported from Asia for much of his professional life. His byline can still be found on the RFA Web site.

Broadcasts in nine Asian languages were introduced on the following dates:

  • Mandarin, launched 9/96, 12 hours of programming per day, 7 days a week. One and one half additional hours weekly in the Wu (Shanghai) dialect.
  • Tibetan, launched 12/96 in Uke dialect, and added Kham dialect on 5/97, and Amdo dialect on 5/97 - 10 hours of programming per day, 7 days a week Uke dialect
  • Burmese, launched 2/97 - 4 hours per day, 7 days a week
  • Vietnamese, launched 2/97 - 2 hours per day, 7 days a week
  • Korean, launched 3/97 - 5 hours per day to North Korea, 7 days a week
  • Laotian, launched 8/97 - 2 hours per day, 7 days a week
  • Khmer (Cambodian,) launched 9/97 - 2 hours per day, 7 days a week
  • Cantonese, launched 5/98 - 2 hours per day, 7 days a week
  • Uyghur, launched 12/98 - 2 hours per day, 7 days a week


“Our job: quite simply, to bring news and information about their own country to populations denied the benefit s of freedom of information by their governments. This Web site is devoted to that same idea, devoted to enlightenment…”

Richard Richter, RFA Founding President

RFA does not express editorial opinions but provides news, analysis, commentary, and cultural programming in the languages of the country of broadcast. A combination of U.S. government-operated transmitters and a variety of shortwave lease facilities support the broadcast.

RFA’s headquarters are located in Washington DC and maintains offices in Hong Kong, Taipei, Bangkok, Seoul, and Phnom Penh, as well as stringer offices in Dharamsala (India) and Ankara.

On the Web:

On September 20th 2004, RFA Web sites in nine Asian languages, plus English, and several additional dialects were launched. From then on, the sites were continuously updated with news and features from Southeast Asia.

Conversion systems were introduced in order to display Uyghur and Cantonese in all scripts of the same languages. For example, Uyghurs can read the news in Arabic, Cyrillic or in Latin-based script if they wish to. Cantonese people can read the news in traditional or simplified characters.

bricIn late 2005, all broadcast programming was made available via podcast as well as RSS feeds. In the course of 2006, RFA introduced videos, blogs and message boards with readers and listeners comments. The next year, eye-witness accounts, mostly in the form of videos and photos taken with cell phones, reached our news room. Our editors – researching and vetting this budding citizen journalism – integrated this new form of reporting to our daily offerings online.

RFA is present on major social network platforms such as YouTube and offers its news reporting content and ethics as a model of information sharing.

Today’s RFA online is a vibrant community of virtual friends, sharing views and information, taking part to the citizen’s discourse that their respective government denies them.

Enabling Legislation

Add comment

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.

View Full Site