Recording History in Real Time: Ensuring Independent Journalism Across Asia
Journalist, President of Radio Free Asia
1995 Fulbright U.S. Student to Hong Kong
Over the course of her 20-plus year career as a journalist and diplomat, Bay Fang has never wavered in her belief in the importance of a free and independent press as an empowering force. Fang, the newly re-appointed President of Radio Free Asia (RFA), has traveled the world reporting on history in real time, from covering wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to reporting on foreign affairs as the diplomatic correspondent for The Chicago Tribune. Her experiences on the ground, including her 1995 Fulbright U.S. Student award to Hong Kong researching Asia-Pacific economic cooperation (APEC), have given her first-hand knowledge of the importance of free press, and positioned her on the front lines of the fight to protect free and independent media around the world.
Fang reflects on the impact of her Fulbright in Hong Kong: “My Fulbright year in Hong Kong launched me on the path to becoming a foreign correspondent and helping to give voice to the voiceless. I was just out of college and it was the year before the handover, and I had the chance to witness firsthand how ordinary people’s lives can be thrown into upheaval by major policies, in which they often have little or no say. I understood then how much it mattered to listen and to tell their stories. From that eye-opening experience, I learned more than a skill or a vocation, but to embrace the world and its challenges, in pursuit of the truth.”
As President of Radio Free Asia (RFA), Fang oversees award-winning journalism with the mission of bringing free press to countries across Asia. Upon her re-appointment as President in January 2021, Fang commented, “RFA both informs and empowers the citizens of countries where authoritarians continue to spin webs of disinformation. As President, I look forward to ensuring RFA continues to shine as a beacon of quality, independent journalism in Asia and beyond.” Fang first joined RFA in 2015 as Managing Director for East Asia, before being appointed President in 2019. During her tenure at RFA, Fang spearheaded investigative reporting on North Korea and China and oversaw exclusive reporting on China’s extrajudicial detention of more than 1 million Uyghur people that led to the U.S. labeling it as a genocide. RFA is funded by the U.S. Congress under the oversight of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).
Prior to her work with RFA, Fang garnered considerable expertise in Asia and the Middle East through her work as a foreign and war correspondent. She started her journalism career as Beijing Bureau Chief for US News and World Report, where she won The Robert F. Kennedy Awards for Excellence in Journalism award for her story “China’s Stolen Wives.” She began covering the war in Afghanistan in October 2001, as one of the first journalists on the ground with the Northern Alliance, and later became the Chief Iraq Correspondent for US News, during which time she was one of the first reporters to be allowed into the training camps of the PKK, an extremist Kurdish guerrilla group. In 2006 she returned to the US and transitioned to be the Diplomatic Correspondent for The Chicago Tribune. In this role, she traveled extensively with the U.S. Secretary of State, reporting on such issues as diplomatic efforts in North Korea and Turkey’s involvement in northern Iraq.
Fang’s depth of experience in foreign policy and communications led her into public diplomacy, where she had the opportunity to shape U.S. communications strategies abroad. She served as Senior Advisor in the U.S. Department of State, directing U.S. strategic communications efforts for southern Afghanistan based in Kandahar, and then was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, overseeing the offices of Press and Public Diplomacy. Fang earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and was a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford.
These experiences throughout her career, beginning with her fellowship, shaped her belief in responsible journalism. At a time when facts themselves are at stake, with people’s health and safety hanging in the balance, it is ever more essential to record and report the truth accurately. “A robust and independent press is a crucial part of the bulwark of civil society, and help prevent abuses by those in power,” Fang said of journalism’s role today. By reporting on events and policies that expose authoritarianism and human rights abuses, Fang’s work helps give voice to the voiceless, and brings truth to the recording of history.