Lower house scraps Senate's plea for free media access to border area

Tomasz Gzell/PAP

Poland's Sejm, the lower house of parliament, has rejected a Senate amendment to a new Border Protection Act that sought to lift restrictions on border areas and allow free access for journalists and humanitarian organisations.

The Sejm also rejected all the other seven amendments introduced to the new legislation by the upper house.

The bill was drafted by the ruling conservative coalition United Right, which faced the expiry of the second and last state of emergency period allowed by the country's constitution, during which access to the Poland-Belarus border zone was heavily restricted amid a large-scale migration crisis.

The new rules make it possible for the interior minister to impose a temporary access ban to areas bordering Belarus, Russia or Ukraine, including on humanitarian organisations. Journalists would be allowed to stay in the border area but only on terms specified by the Border Guard.

The Senate which, unlike the Sejm, is dominated by opposition parties, wanted the give journalists free and unlimited access to the restricted area of Poland.

President Andrzej Duda signed the legislation into law just hours after the Sejm vote, Duda's chief aide Pawel Szrot told PAP on Tuesday evening.

Poland has been struggling to stem a wave of migrants from the Belarusian side of the border for several months now. Some entry attempts by large groups of migrants have been well-organised, often with the aid of Belarusian security services.

Poland, other EU members and the United States have accused the Belarus of instigating the crisis in order to destabilise the EU.