Friday, May 3 was World Press Freedom Day. The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day or just World Press Day to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
At the time of this writing, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks is being held in the UK awaiting extradition to the US for alleged conspiracy involving US state secrets. While in the US, whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been jailed once again. This time for failing to answer questions put to her by a secret grand jury regarding her involvement with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Meanwhile Edward Snowden, exiled to Russia for exposing the lies and secret minutiae of the US Security State commented at Ecuador’s invitation for the UK’s secret police “To drag a publisher of, like it or not, award winning journalism out of the building is going to end up in the history books. Assange critics may cheer but this is a dark day for press freedom.” Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis had this to say: “The game is up. Years of lies exposed. Assange was persecuted for exposing war crimes.” As Julian Assange himself says “It’s very simple. People have the right to know and a right to question power. That’s true democracy.”
What does this have to do with Cannabis and World Press Freedom Day? Simple. This is about Europe’s Freedom of the Press and what it means to be a journalist/publisher. When you embarrass those in power by shining a light on their crimes and machinations, the powerful will attempt to silence you in any way they can. This most recent outrage may be a turning point for journalism. We can validate and cheer what Assange, Manning and WikiLeaks have done for democracy or we can punish them for doing what the press in a well functioning democracy is meant to do i.e. inform the public. The end game is an Orwellian dystopia.
Okay, this isn’t at the same level, but those of us in the Cannabis community have experienced the tyranny of prohibition, propaganda and media censorship for years. We know what it is to be opposed by powerful interests both state and private and we’ve suffered the lies, propaganda and distortion directed at us by the mainstream media. Cannabis has been vilified and its use stigmatized for almost a century. All over the world, people are being imprisoned for simple possession of tiny amounts, their whole lives turned upside down, homes and assets being seized, civil assets forfeiture padding the coffers of corrupt politicians and law enforcement. Generations of people have been harassed and imprisoned for their consumption of this healing herb and its benefits. Censorship of cannabis’ life saving qualities were carried by the mainstream media due to European laws. Research studies on cannabis were limited, and as a result people chose homeopathic remedies instead of natural ones involving cannabis. Advocates and activists pushed for acceptance which led to some countries’ decriminalization.
Nowadays, numerous medical testimonials can attest to the reversal of pain, ailments and disease through the use of cannabis. Imagine how much happier and healthier a society we could be, had we as citizens were allowed to choose cannabis as their treatment instead of pharmaceuticals. Daily, more Europeans are waking up to living a life with cannabis with some freedom to utilize its applications to enhance and better themselves. News outlets were not encouraged to report on the great healing that came from cannabis. Some European media is now allowed to report on all facets of cannabis education available to all citizens. The freedom that some Europeans now have to read and publish on cannabis is one we should cherish. This is the nexus where cannabis and WikiLeaks meet. Journalists are being censored, penalized, threatened, sued, imprisoned and even murdered for simply doing their jobs, for reporting the truth. Assange and Manning are heroes, not criminals. Cannabis is a herb for medicine and recreation, not a danger to society. The choice is ours, light or darkness
“Democracy dies in the dark.”
Bob Woodward, Watergate investigative reporter
“So this is how liberty dies – with thunderous applause.”
Padmé Amidala, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
“The arrest of Assange I fear, marks the official beginning of the corporate totalitarianism that will define our lives.”
Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist