The Times’s argument that corporations should have “limited” free speech rights, “far less than those of people,” was ironic. If accepted, it would gut The Times’s own free speech rights, since The New York Times Company is a corporation — something that didn’t stop it from winning the landmark First Amendment ruling New York Times v. Sullivan.
Giving corporations free speech rights is necessary to protect the rights of the people they employ. If companies didn’t have free speech rights, they could be held liable for the constitutionally protected speech of their employees and agents, effectively forcing them to censor such people.
That may explain why modern human-rights charters protect corporations. The European Convention on Human Rights, for example, allows “any person, nongovernmental organization or group of individuals” to seek redress, leading to many court rulings in favor of companies, like Dubus S.A. v. France.