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Where is the outrage over Steve Baker’s prosecution?

By Rep. Barry Loudermilk (GA-11) 
Op-ed run exclusively in Blaze Media

Journalist Steve Baker was arrested by the FBI on March 1. He was placed in handcuffs and leg irons and transported by armed agents to be arraigned on charges the Justice Department refused to disclose until he turned himself in and presented himself in court.

The extraordinary circumstances and security surrounding Baker’s arrest, as it turned out, pertained to four federal misdemeanors stemming from the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Baker was on the scene as a journalist, though without a press pass.

Images of reporters being arrested, handcuffed, and imprisoned by governments for their reporting should evoke thoughts of totalitarian regimes such as the Soviet Union and communist China. But now we are witnessing this scene in the United States of America, and it seems that most of the mainstream media are complacent.

The media haven’t ignored Baker’s arrest completely. Some media outlets have eagerly reported it, with some nearly praising the Justice Department for pressing charges. Incredibly, only a few reporters have expressed outrage — or even any level of concern — over the government’s blatant assault on the freedom of the press.

In other recent and past cases, the corporate media’s reaction was quite different. Righteous outrage poured out — and continues — over the arrest and imprisonment of American reporter Evan Gershkovich in Russia. In 2018, that same justifiable outrage followed the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident journalist and contributor to the Washington Post who was brutally murdered in Turkey because of his reporting.

Reporters Without Borders published a report in 2021 detailing the number of journalists being persecuted worldwide, finding a 20% increase year over year. “This exceptional surge in arbitrary detention,” the group concluded, “is mostly attributable to three countries whose governments are indifferent to their citizens’ yearning for democracy.” Emphasis added.

For nearly 250 years, America has been a safe haven for journalists fleeing authoritarian regimes around the globe. Freedom of the press was considered by our founders to be one of our greatest weapons against tyranny. James Madison said a free press is “one of the great bulwarks of liberty.” Alexander Hamilton even argued in Federalist 84 that there was no need to include freedom of the press in the Constitution because the federal government had no power to regulate it. 

In 1931, the Supreme Court upheld the freedom of the press in Near v. Minnesota, confirming that the First Amendment includes even speech the public may find despicable. Again, in 1971 the high court upheld the freedom of the press in New York Times Co. v. United States, siding with the newspaper’s right to publish leaked government documents. 

In 2015, journalists across the country decried the Obama administration for spying on two reporters at the Associated Press in an effort to stop internal leaks. To my knowledge, this gross violation of freedom of the press was never challenged in court. 

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but many of the same players involved in Obama’s unconstitutional treatment of journalists are again in powerful positions in the Biden administration, and we are again seeing the freedom of the press violated. 

Steve Baker was an independent journalist when he went to Washington, D.C., on January 5 and 6, 2021, to cover the various rallies planned for those days. On January 6, more than 60 other journalists and photographers were also in the crowd at the Capitol. Like many of them, Baker went with the flow of events all the way into the building. He filmed what he was witnessing and later turned over his footage to the FBI. 

With so many members of the press at or inside the Capitol Building on January 6, why is the Justice Department singling out Steve Baker? And why now? They say it’s because he made some political and derogatory comments about members of Congress, mostly in the days following January 6. 

I’ve seen the charging documents. While I don’t agree with some of the comments Baker made, nor would I use some of his colorful language, in this country, words and opinions are not crimes. Or at least they are not supposed to be.

A more likely explanation for this sudden decision to bring charges is that Baker has recently been digging into certain incidents of January 6 and subsequent investigations by the FBI. 

He recently broke major stories about the RNC and DNC pipe bomb investigations and potential perjury by witnesses who testified in cases the Justice Department brought against protesters. 

Like any good reporter, Baker is working to get to the truth. But it raises serious questions when his arrest came shortly after his investigation uncovered potential corruption in the FBI and January 6 cases prosecuted by the Justice Department. 

It is even more suspicious that Baker was singled out from among dozens of journalists at the Capitol that day and that this indictment has popped up suddenly three years after the fact. 

John F. Kennedy once said, “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” 

Every freedom-loving American, and especially every member of the press, should be alarmed by the persecution and prosecution of a journalist doing his job. But in the state of our current society, one thing is clear: January 6 and Donald Trump have changed the journalistic landscape. 

The media will rally fervently to defend the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly — except when the journalist dares to question the Biden-Pelosi narrative of January 6.

U.S. Representative Barry Loudermilk is a Republican serving Georgia’s 11th Congressional District.