Project Veritas filed a lawsuit Monday challenging Oregon’s law barring recording without first obtaining the permission of all parties, accusing the state of “punishing the gathering and publication of truthful news in the name of privacy.”
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Portland said that but for Oregon’s law, Project Veritas would seek to embed its undercover investigators with protesters and fringe groups to collect information about the leftist rioters besieging the city for nearly three months.
“We are seeking to strengthen watchdog journalism by overturning an unconstitutional law criminalizing the kind of corruption-exposing journalism which holds the powerful accountable across the country,” said James O’Keefe, Project Veritas founder and president, in a statement.
Thirty-six states have one-party recording laws, which allow audio and video recording as long as one party is aware of it, according to Justia.com, but Oregon is an “all-party consent state” where those recording others without their permission may face misdemeanor charges.
“In Oregon it is legal to record telephone conversations with the consent of at least one party, but recording in-person conversations requires the consent of all parties except for in certain circumstances, such as when all parties reasonably should have known they were being recorded,” Justia said.
Mr. O’Keefe argued that the restrictions have impeded reporting about the Portland unrest and the involvement of shadowy protest groups like Antifa.
“Imagine the Statesman Journal or the Oregonian’s coverage of Portland’s violent and destructive protests if they were able to record deep inside the civil unrest and expose who is really behind the violence,” he said. “By denying the right to record, Oregon bans the most effective means of gathering the news.”
The lawsuit names Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schmidt as defendants.
“The courts have used this law to endorse the arrest of a citizen who held a camera, warned the person he was filming that he had them on camera, but didn’t specifically warn the camera captured audio,” said P.V. attorney Benjamin Barr. “It is absurd. But more importantly, it is unconstitutional.”
In December 2018, Project Veritas won a lawsuit against a Massachusetts law that prohibited the undercover recording of government officials and police officers.
“We made First Amendment history with our legal victory in Massachusetts federal court, when the judge struck down that state’s multiple-party consent laws for recording public officials conducting the public’s business, and we are now trying to restore the First Amendment to Oregon,” Mr. O’Keefe said.
Project Veritas, known for its hidden-camera investigations, released in June undercover footage of a Rose City Antifa training session in Portland that included tips on weapons and tactics, including eye-gouging.