Vox Sentences: Is Julian Assange a journalist?

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Charges against Julian Assange raise First Amendment concerns; Narendra Modi is reelected by a landslide in India.


Julian Assange is indicted under the Espionage Act

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  • The US government has indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on 17 new counts of violating the Espionage Act — which has raised some concerns about First Amendment rights. The new charges come on top of an initial indictment that was made public last month. [AP / Eric Tucker]
  • Prosecutors said Assange repeatedly asked sources to share classified information. He then posted this information (without redacting any names) knowing that it could put named individuals in the documents at risk. He disregarded warnings from the government about these dangers, they added. [NYT / Charlie Savage]
  • Assange is already caught up in a lot of legal trouble. He was arrested in London last month on charges of violating his bail conditions, and he is also facing rape allegations in Sweden. [The Hill / Jacqueline Thomsen and Morgan Chalfant]
  • The fact that Assange was charged under the Espionage Act raises alarms for press freedom activists because the law has historically prosecuted government officials who share the information, not publishers. Critics of the government’s move fear it could set a dangerous precedent for journalists, who also publish classified information. [Politico / Natasha Bertrand]
  • The government has already said that Assange’s indictment isn’t a hit at journalists because they do not see him as a member of the press. [CNN / Laura Jarrett and Eli Watkins]
  • The problem, however, is that there is not a clear legal distinction between what Assange has done and what news outlets do. The government says Assange is different because he gave Chelsea Manning “direction” and “explicitly” sought classified material. [Washington Post / Devlin Barrett, Rachel Weiner, and Matt Zapotosky]
  • Whether Assange is a journalist or not will be at the heart of the debate in court. His case will also be a test of First Amendment protections in the US. [Vox / Jen Kirby]

A win for Hindu nationalism in India

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has won reelection in India on a stridently Hindu nationalist platform. [BBC]
  • In the world’s largest democratic election, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party won 303 of 542 seats to the opposing Indian National Congress’s 52. Voter turnout was at a record high of 67.1 percent. [Al Jazeera]
  • Political analysts believe Modi will focus his leadership on fulfilling three goals: getting India into the exclusive $5 trillion economy club, asserting itself as a global nuclear power, and centering Hinduism within politics. [AP / Amrit Dhillon]
  • Modi’s push for Hindu nationalism has been evident since his takeover in 2014, creating tension between the majority Hindu population and minority Muslim population. He brought that same energy to his election campaign — and it paid off. [Vox / Kalpana Jain]
  • Sowing division helped Modi distract voters from a lackluster economy, which he had promised to bolster in his past five years in office. The unemployment rate is at a 40-year high and farmers have been struggling for years. [NPR / Sasha Ingber and Lauren Frayer]
  • Reports of hate crimes and Islamophobia have risen since Modi came to power, possibly fueled by his rhetoric. Some are concerned about the consequences of rewarding Modi for his nationalistic views, especially because it might embolden Hindu extremists. [NYT / Jeffrey Gettleman, Kai Schultz, Ayesha Venkataraman, and Sameer Yasir]

Miscellaneous

  • Same-sex couples could marry legally in Taiwan for the first time today, and hundreds gathered to tie the knot. [Washington Post / Keith McMillan]
  • Long lines can be expected at most any landmark, but the queue at Mount Everest can be deadly. [CNN / Julia Hollingsworth]
  • In a bizarre case, a man reported that someone broke into his house but didn’t steal anything — they simply cleaned the place and left. [CBS News / Danielle Garrand]
  • New deepfake technology can fabricate a video of you using just one profile picture. [CNET / Joan E. Solsman]
  • Student loan debt is such a pervasive problem that companies like Burger King are actually advertising sweepstakes to pay off loans as a marketing ploy. [Atlantic / Adam Harris]

Verbatim

“The charges rely almost entirely on conduct that investigative journalists engage in every day. The indictment should be understood as a frontal attack on press freedom.” [Jameel Jaffer of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, on Julian Assange’s charges]


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