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ACLU, NYCLU, National Coalition Against Censorship File Brief in Support of The New York Times’ First Amendment Right to Report on Project Veritas

NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the National Coalition Against Censorship filed an amicus brief today in support of The New York Times’ right to report and publish information related to Project Veritas.

Last month, a New York state judge ordered The New York Times to immediately turn over a legal document prepared by Project Veritas’ lawyer. The court also ordered the Times to stop reporting on the information contained in the documents. The Times is now in a state appeals court to undo the ruling. The amicus brief filed by the ACLU, the NYCLU, and NCAC argues that the court’s order, which imposes a prior restraint on the Times, unconstitutionally infringes both the freedom of the press and the right of the public to receive information.

“Courts shouldn’t be in the business of telling newspapers what to print and the public what to read,” said Brian Hauss, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “The appeals court must dissolve this blatantly unconstitutional prior restraint on The New York Times.”

In issuing the prior restraint, the lower court held that the documents in question are not legitimate subjects of public concern, and that Project Veritas’ privacy interests justify the prior restraint on the Times. The groups argue the court should not have allowed its own views about what constitutes a matter of public concern to dictate the Times’ reporting, and that many important public disclosures depend on leaks of similarly private documents to the press. The court’s censorship of the Times poses a grave threat to the freedom of the press and the public’s right to receive information.

“The public’s right to information and ideas is fundamental to a healthy democracy and a free society,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Decades of case law have established that the First Amendment does not allow prior restraint on speech. The New York Times should not be barred from doing its job, reporting this story, and informing the people.”

The groups are asking the court to vacate the lower court’s order imposing a prior restraint against the Times’ reporting.

“No one can be permitted to control what the American people are allowed to know and think,” said Chris Finan, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. “Our courts must uphold the public’s right to be informed, to receive information and to engage in debate.”

“The First Amendment protects freedom of the press and the public’s right to receive information and ideas,” said Perry Grossman, supervising attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “It’s the public’s job to determine what is worthy of their concern, not the courts. Prior restraints are presumptively invalid under the First Amendment because any other rule would be a severe loss for the freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas.”

The case, Project Veritas v. New York, is currently pending in the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Second Department.

This statement can be found online here:

The amicus brief can be found here:

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