NEFAC Joins Effort to End Prior Restraint Against The New York Times

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition and more than 50 media organizations recently denounced a prior restraint imposed on The New York Times, saying that the legal order would have “grave ramifications” for journalists’ ability to report the news.

“The restrictions on publication and newsgathering contemplated by the Order — as well as the interim restrictions currently imposed by it — violate the First Amendment’s prohibition on prior restraints,” explained the groups in a Nov. 22 amicus brief drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

A New York state court issued the prior restraint in Project Veritas v. New York Times Company. While occurring outside of New England jurisdictions, the order should trouble newsrooms across the country, said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director.

“As the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear, prior restraints are the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights” Silverman said.

The case arises from a Nov. 11 story in The New York Times that included excerpts of memoranda prepared by an attorney for Project Veritas, unrelated to a defamation lawsuit between the two organizations.

Less than a week after the Times published the story, Project Veritas asked the state court handling the defamation case to enter a prior restraint against the newspaper, arguing that the memoranda excerpted in the Times’s article were subject to the attorney-client privilege.

The court granted Project Veritas’s request, ordering the Times to “refrain from further disseminating or publishing any of Project Veritas’ ‘privileged materials’” in its possession, pending an upcoming court hearing. The order also barred the Times from “further efforts to solicit or acquire” Project Veritas’s “attorney-client privileged materials.”

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. The coalition regularly participates in cases involving First Amendment freedoms and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Leadership Circle donors for 2021 include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Boston University, WBUR-Boston, the Academy of New England Journalists and Genie Gannett.