Poland to open press centre near Belarusian border

The government will soon open a press centre in the border area with Belarus covered by a state of emergency, a deputy defence minister has said.

Under the emergency rules, the press were banned from entering the area. The ban prompted allegations that the government wanted to protect events at the border from being subjected to press scrutiny.

The state of emergency, introduced in September, has now expired due to constitutional limits, but the ruling party managed to push legislation through parliament on Tuesday that allows the interior minister to prolong many restrictions in areas bordering Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, including access for journalists, who will now have to apply for passes with a local border guard chief.

The president was quick to sign the legislation on Tuesday, and the interior minister set the new legal regime from Wednesday.

Wojciech Skurkiewicz, a defence minister and a senator with the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, told state broadcaster PR24 on Wednesday that "journalists will be allowed in the border belt upon approval from the relevant Border Guard commander".

"A press centre will be opened soon and journalists will be able to use it to record their interviews," Skurkiewicz added.

"I am convinced that the presence of journalists and their work at the border will be facilitated and will be possible," he said.

Skurkiewicz went on to say that the rationale behind the new law was to protect Polish security services from undue disturbance from the media and NGOs as their job was "very difficult and dangerous".

"It is unacceptable for journalists or other people to approach officers and soldiers in this situation," Skurkiewicz said.

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.