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Radio Free Asia

Radio Free Asia
RFA official logo
Abbreviation RFA
Formation 1996
Type private, non-profit Sec 501(c)3 corporation
Purpose Broadcast Media
Official language Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, Uyghur, Burmese, Vietnamese, Lao, Khmer, and Korean
President Libby Liu
Parent organization Broadcasting Board of Governors

Radio Free Asia (RFA) is a private, nonprofit corporation that broadcasts and publishes online news, information, and commentary to listeners in East Asia who do not have unfettered access to free, reliable domestic news media. RFA is funded in part by an annual grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the independent agency of the United States government responsible for all non-military, international broadcasting sponsored by the U.S government (such as Radio Free Europe). RFA broadcasts in nine Asian languages for audiences in six countries.

RFA "aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia." The entity was originally established by the United States Congress through legislation enacted in 1994.[1] Its mandate is to broadcast timely, accurate news happening within its broadcast region that is "otherwise not reported".


  • History 1
  • Radio jamming and Internet blocking 2
  • Mission 3
  • Criticism 4
  • Awards 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


Radio Free Asia is a US-government funded, non-profit organization, incorporated in March 1996, and began broadcasting in September 1996.[2]

RFA broadcasts in nine languages, via shortwave, satellite transmissions, medium-wave (AM and FM radio), and through the Internet. The first transmission was in Mandarin Chinese and it is RFA's most broadcast language at twelve hours per day. RFA also broadcasts in Cantonese, Tibetan (Kham, Amdo, and Uke dialects), Uyghur, Burmese, Vietnamese, Lao, Khmer (to Cambodia) and Korean (to North Korea). The Korean service launched in 1997 with Jaehoon Ahn as its founding director.[3]

After the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 public support in the US grew for services that could provide information to people living under repressive regimes in Asia.[4] The International Broadcasting Act was passed by the Congress of the United States in 1994. Radio Free Asia is formally a private, non-profit corporation. RFA is funded by an annual federal grant from and administered by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). The BBG serves as RFA’s corporate board of directors, making and supervising grants to RFA.

BBG's stated mission is "to promote and sustain freedom and democracy by broadcasting accurate and objective news and information about the United States and the world to audiences overseas. [...] RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia."

Radio jamming and Internet blocking

Since broadcasting began in 1996, Chinese authorities have consistently jammed RFA broadcasts.[5]

Three RFA reporters were denied access to China to cover U.S. President Bill Clinton’s visit in June 1998. The Chinese embassy in Washington had initially granted visas to three but revoked them shortly before President Clinton left Washington en route to Beijing. The White House and United States Department of State filed complaints with Chinese authorities over the matter but the reporters ultimately did not make the trip.[5][6]

The Vietnamese-language broadcast signal was also jammed by the Vietnamese government since the beginning.[7] Human rights legislation has been proposed in Congress that would allocate money to counter the jamming.[8] Research by the OpenNet Initiative, a project that monitors Internet filtering by governments worldwide, showed that the Vietnamese-language portion of the Radio Free Asia website was blocked by both of the tested ISPs in Vietnam, while the English-language portion was blocked by one of the two ISPs.[9]

To address radio jamming and Internet blocking by the governments of the countries that it broadcasts to, the RFA website contains instruction on how to create anti-jamming antennas and information on web proxies.[10]

On March 30, 2010, China's Web filter, known as "the Great Firewall", temporarily blocked all Google searches in China, due to an unintentional association with the long-censored term “rfa.”[11] According to Google, the letters, associated with Radio Free Asia, were appearing in the URLs of all Google searches, thereby triggering China's filter to block search results.


Broadcasting Information (Channels 1, 2, 3, 4)
Language Service Launch Date Daily
Broadcast Hours
Burmese February 1997 8 Hours, Daily ÷ over 3 channels
Cantonese May 1998 7 Hours, Daily ÷ over 2 channels
Khmer September 1997 5 Hours, Daily, 1 ch
Korean March 1997 9 Hours, Daily, 1 ch
Lao August 1997 5 Hours, Daily, 1 ch
Mandarin September 1996 24 Hours, Daily ÷ over 3 channels
Tibetan December 1996 23 Hours, Daily, 1 ch
Uyghur December 1998 6 Hours, Daily, 1 ch
Vietnamese February 1997 8 Hours, Daily ÷ over 2 channels

Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting and publishing online news, information, and commentary in nine Asian languages to listeners who do not have access to full and free news media. RFA’s broadcasts seek to promote the rights of freedom of opinion and expression, including the freedom to “seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”[12]

The International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (Title III of Pub.L. 103–236) is more explicit about the mission of RFA:
the continuation of existing U.S. international broadcasting, and the creation of a new broadcasting service to people of the People's Republic of China and other countries of Asia, which lack adequate sources of free information and ideas, would enhance the promotion of information and ideas, while advancing the goals of U.S. foreign policy.


In 1999, Catharin Dalpino of the Brookings Institution, who served in the Clinton State Department as a deputy assistant secretary deputy for human rights, called Radio Free Asia "a waste of money." "Wherever we feel there is an ideological enemy, we're going to have a Radio Free Something," she says. Dalpino said she has reviewed scripts of Radio Free Asia's broadcasts and views the station's reporting as unbalanced. "They lean very heavily on reports by and about dissidents in exile. It doesn't sound like reporting about what's going on in a country. Often, it reads like a textbook on democracy, which is fine, but even to an American it's rather propagandistic."[13]

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service of the U.S. government, official state-controlled newspapers in China have run editorials claiming Radio Free Asia is a CIA broadcast operation.[4]

North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency has referred to Radio Free Asia as "reptile broadcasting services."[14]

Kim Chol-min, third secretary of North Korea, in statement submitted at The United Nations, accusing the United States of engaging in "psychological warfare" with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea through RFA.[15]

Following the Burmese Saffron Revolution in the fall of 2007, the Myanmar junta held rallies attended by thousands holding signs that condemned external interference and accused Radio Free Asia, the Voice of America, and the BBC of "airing a skyful of lies."[16]

In October 2007, Burmese state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar singled out "big powers" and Radio Free Asia, among other international broadcasters, as inciting protesters during the Saffron Revolution.[17]


See also


  1. ^ Public Law No: 103-236. "Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1994 and 1995". US Government Printing Office. Retrieved April 30, 1994. 
  2. ^ Mann, "After 5 Years of Political Wrangling, Radio Free Asia Becomes a Reality", The Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1996
  3. ^ Brown, Emma (June 10, 2011). "Jaehoon Ahn, reporter and Post researcher, dies".  
  4. ^ a b Susan B. Epstein: CRS Report for Congress (PDF)
  5. ^ a b Mann, "China Bars 3 Journalists From Clinton's Trip", The Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1998
  6. ^ Sieff/Scully "Radio Free Asia reporters stay home; Clinton kowtows to Beijing’s ban, critics contend", The Washington Times, June 24, 1998
  7. ^ "Radio Free Asia says broadcasts to Vietnam are being jammed". CNN. February 7, 1997. Retrieved February 11, 2008. 
  8. ^ "H.R. 1587 Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2004". Congressional Budget Office. June 24, 2004. Retrieved February 11, 2008. 
  9. ^ "OpenNet Initiative: Vietnam". OpenNet Initiative. Retrieved February 11, 2008. 
  10. ^ "RFA: Anti-jamming antenna". Retrieved February 11, 2008. 
  11. ^ Censky, Annalyn (March 30, 2010). "Google blames China's 'great firewall' for outage". CNN. Retrieved March 30, 2010. 
  12. ^ Radio Free Asia
  13. ^ Dick Kirschten: Broadcast News May 1, 1999
  14. ^ “KCNA raps U.S. despicable psychological warfare against DPRK,” February 22, 2008 BBC Monitoring Service
  15. ^ General Assembly GA/SPD/430 United Nations Department of Public Information, October 2009
  16. ^ On Quiet Streets of Myanmar Fear Is a Constant Companion International Herald Tribune. October 21, 2007
  17. ^ Myanmar guards accused of detainee abuse Associated Press. October 11, 2007
  18. ^ Duggan, Paul; Clarence Williams (November 1, 2008). "Cover-Up Alleged in D.C. Killing Of Lawyer".  

Further reading

  • Engelhardt, Tom (1998). The End of Victory Culture. Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a Generation. University of Massachusetts Press.  
  • Laville, Helen; Wilford, Hugh (1996). The US Government, Citizen Groups And the Cold War. The State-Private Network. Routledge.  
  • Thussu, Daya Kishan (2000). International Communication. Continuity and Change. Arnold.  
  • Defty, Andrew (2004). Britain, America and Anti-Communist Propaganda, 1945-53. The Information Research Department. Routledge.  

External links

  • Official website
  • Broadcasting of Radio Free Asia and Voice of America is Pulled in Cambodia US Department of State Press Release
  • Updated news
  • Radio Free Asia, Legal Information Institute
  • L.A. Times articles about Radio Free Asia
  • Guide to the Radio Free Asia Vietnamese Broadcasts. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California.
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