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 United States Agency for Global Media.
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 of 2006. Today, RFA's President is Bay Fang, a longtime journalist and former diplomat who came to RFA in 2015 before being appointed President in 2019. Parameswaran Ponnudurai, Executive Editor and Vice President of Programming, has programming oversight of the Editorial Division — including all RFA language services and the English language webpage.
Broadcasts in nine Asian languages were introduced on the following dates:
“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 website 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 RFA maintains offices in Hong Kong, Taipei, Bangkok, and Seoul, as well as stringer offices in Dharamsala, India and Ankara, Turkey. RFA was forced to close its Phnom Penh office in 2017 due to a government crackdown on free press.
On the Web:
On Sept. 20, 2004, RFA launched websites in nine Asian languages, plus English, and several additional dialects. From then on, the sites were continuously updated with news and features.
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.
In late 2005, all broadcast programming was made available via podcast as well as RSS feeds. Over the course of 2006, RFA introduced videos, blogs and message boards with readers and listeners comments. The following year, eye-witness accounts, mostly in the form of videos and photos taken with cell phones, reached our newsroom. Our editors – researching and vetting this budding citizen journalism – integrated this new form of reporting into our daily offerings online.
RFA is present on major social network platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, 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 in the citizens’ discourse that their respective governments deny them.