NY Times denounces ruling temporarily blocking publication of Project Veritas memos

The New York Times denounced a judge’s ruling that temporarily blocks the newspaper from publishing stories based on internal documents from the conservative group Project Veritas.

New York state Supreme Court Justice Charles D. Wood ruled on Thursday that the newspaper “shall immediately sequester, protect, and refrain from further disseminating or publishing any of Plaintiff Project Veritas’ privileged materials in the possession of” the newspaper or its counsel.

Wood added that the Times and its counsel "shall cease further efforts to solicit or acquire Plaintiff Project Veritas’ attorney-client privileged materials.”

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Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times, blasted the judge's order, saying in a statement, "This ruling is unconstitutional and sets a dangerous precedent. When a court silences journalism, it fails its citizens and undermines their right to know."

“The Supreme Court made that clear in the Pentagon Papers case, a landmark ruling against prior restraint blocking the publication of newsworthy journalism. That principle clearly applies here. We are seeking an immediate review of this decision," he added.

Bruce Brown, the executive director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, called the ruling "an outrageous affront to the First Amendment."

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The move comes as Project Veritas on Wednesday filed a motion in an effort to block the newspaper from publishing more articles based on the group's internal memos, according to The Washington Post

A story published earlier this month by the Times cited documents that it said pointed to “an interest in using tactics that test the boundaries of legality and are outside of mainstream reporting techniques.”

The Times story did not say how the newspaper got access to the materials. A lawyer for the newspaper denied to the Post this week that the memos were "obtained improperly."

The Times is in the midst of a defamation lawsuit filed by Project Veritas regarding a story the newspaper published last year on a video that included allegations of voter fraud.

Libby Locke, an attorney representing Project Veritas, argued that the content of the internal documents that the Times publicized are protected by attorney-client privilege. 

“New York courts routinely issue orders that prohibit or limit a litigant from disseminating materials that are protected by the attorney-client privilege, by trade secret law, or that implicate serious privacy interests,” Locke said in a statement. 

“Moreover, the Order To Show Cause is exceedingly limited—it does not ask that the Court restrict The Times ability to write about Veritas. It simply asks that The Times sequester and not further disseminate Veritas’ attorney-client privileged materials—particularly given that they relate to the very issues in the lawsuit,” she added.

James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, claimed that the newspaper was trying to have it “both ways,” though freedom of press advocates also blasted Wood’s ruling. 

“While the principles of prior restraint do not apply to an order regarding attorney-client materials the Times’ already published during our defamation litigation, perhaps Mr. Baquet could explain why his paper has not applied these high minded standards to its coverage of the DOJ raids against Project Veritas,” O’Keefe said in a statement. “The paper needs to decide if it is in favor of press freedom for all, or only itself, because it can't have it both ways.”