Radio Free Asia

Radio Free Asia

Radio Free Asia (RFA) is a private radio station funded by the United States Congress that broadcasts in nine Asian languages.



Radio Free Asia was originally a radio station broadcasting propaganda for the US-American government in local languages to mostly communist countries in Asia. It was originally founded and funded in 1950 by the CIA through a front organization called "Committee for Free Asia" as an anti-communist propaganda operation, broadcasting from Manila, the Philippines, and Dacca and Karachi, Pakistan (there may be other sites) until 1961. Some offices were in Tokyo. The parent organization was given as the Asia Foundation. In 1971 CIA involvement ended and all responsibilities were transferred to a presidentially appointed Board for International Broadcasting (BIB). [Laville/Wilford p. 215, Engelhart p. 120, Thussu p. 37]

Present day

Incorporated as a private organization in March 1996, RFA began broadcasting in September 1996. [Mann, "After 5 Years of Political Wrangling, Radio Free Asia Becomes a Reality", The Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1996]

Today, RFA broadcasts in nine languages, via shortwave and the Internet. The first transmission was in Mandarin Chinese and it is RFA's most elaborate service as it is broadcast 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).

Political interest in the United States to broadcast to Asia re-emerged after the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989. [Susan B. Epstein: [ Radio Free Asia] (CRS Report for Congress; PDF)]

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. RFA today is wholly unrelated to and is not a successor organization of the Radio Free Asia of the 1950s.

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. [Mann, "China Bars 3 Journalists From Clinton's Trip", The Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1998]

Three RFA reporters were denied access to China to cover U.S. President Clinton’s visit there 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 State Department filed complaints with Chinese authorities over the matter but the reporters ultimately did not make the trip. [Sieff/Scully "Radio Free Asia reporters stay home; Clinton kowtows to Beijing’s ban, critics contend", The Washington Times, June 24, 1998] [Mann, "China Bars 3 Journalists From Clinton's Trip", The Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1998]

The Vietnamese-language broadcast signal was also jammed by the Vietnamese government since the beginning. [cite news|url=|title=Radio Free Asia says broadcasts to Vietnam are being jammed|date=1997-02-07|accessdate=2008-02-11|publisher=CNN] Many human-rights legislations have been proposed in Congress that would allocate money to counter the jamming. [cite web|url=|date=2004-06-24|title=H.R. 1587 Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2004|accessdate=2008-02-11|publisher=Congressional Budget Office] 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. [cite web|url=|publisher=OpenNet Initiative|title=OpenNet Initiative: Vietnam|accessdate=2008-02-11]

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. [cite web|url=|title=RFA: Anti-jamming antenna|accessdate=2008-02-11]


RFA is a private, nonprofit corporation that broadcasts news and information in nine native Asian languages to listeners who do not have access to full and free news media. The purpose of RFA is to provide a forum for a variety of opinions and voices from within these Asian countries. [Radio Free Asia:] ]

The U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (PL 103-236, title III) 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."


Catharin Dalpino of the Brookings Institution, who served in the Clinton State Department as a deputy assistant secretary deputy for human rights, has 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 in a country. Often, it reads like a textbook on democracy, which is fine, but even to an American it's rather propagandistic." [Dick Kirschten: [ Broadcast News] ("", 1 May 1999)]

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service of the U.S. government, newspaper editorialists in China have claimed that Radio Free Asia is a CIA broadcast operation. [Susan B. Epstein: [ Radio Free Asia] (CRS Report for Congress; PDF)]


* Annual Human Rights Press Award. 2005, 2007, 2008. Amnesty International, Hong Kong Journalists Association, Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong.
* International Activist Award, 2005, Gleitsman Foundation.
* Edward R. Murrow Regional Award, 2005. Radio-Television News Directors Association.
*Bronze Medal in Environmental Programs. 2007. New York Festival Radio Broadcasting Awards.
*Gracie Allen Award for Most Outstanding Series. 2008. American Women in Radio and Television.

See also

* Voice of America
* Radio Free Europe
* International broadcasting
* Robert Goralski
* Radio Taiwan International
* China Radio International


* Tom Engelhardt: The End of Victory Culture. Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a Generation (University of Massachusetts Press 1998); ISBN 1-55849-133-3.
* Helen Laville, Hugh Wilford: The US Government, Citizen Groups And the Cold War. The State-Private Network (Routledge 1996); ISBN 0-415-35608-3.
* Daya Kishan Thussu: International Communication. Continuity and Change (Arnold 2000); ISBN 0-340-74130-9.
* Andrew Defty: Britain, America and Anti-Communist Propaganda, 1945-53. The Information Research Department (Routledge 2004); ISBN 0-7146-5443-4.

External links

* [ Radio Free Asia] (official website, cannot access from Mainland China directly)
* [ Radio Free Asia, Legal Information Institute]
* [] Updated news
* [ China Can't Stop Its Youth Learning About the Massacre] , by Jennifer Chou, Director, RFA's Mandarin Service, June 2, 2004
* [ Broadcasting of Radio Free Asia and Voice of America is Pulled in Cambodia] US Department of State Press Release
* [ In Support of Radio Free Asia] Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, July 23, 1996


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