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Polish Media Furious Over Belarus Border Ban

FILE - Polish soldiers build a fence on the border between Poland and Belarus near the village of Nomiki, Poland, August 26, 2021.

Dozens of Polish news outlets have expressed anger over a media ban at the border with Belarus, part of a state of emergency imposed by Warsaw following an influx of migrants.

Thousands of migrants — mainly from the Middle East — have crossed or tried to cross the border from Belarus into the eastern EU member states of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in recent months.

The EU suspects the influx is being deliberately engineered by Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko in retaliation against increasingly stringent EU sanctions on his regime.

Poland has responded to the influx by sending thousands of soldiers to the border and earlier this month imposed a 30-day emergency banning non-residents including journalists from the border area.

“The government's actions are in conflict with the principle of freedom of speech,” the media organizations said in a joint statement published on their sites.

To eliminate the media “is unacceptable and incompatible with the standards of a democratic country,” they added.

Some media outlets have covered claims from NGOs that Polish guards have pushed migrants back toward Belarus.

The statement was released by 30 media organizations, and more newsrooms have since added their backing.

In a separate statement released Monday, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) declared a "press freedom state of emergency" in Poland.

It said Poland had fallen 46 places in RSF's World Press Freedom Index since the Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in 2015. It is now ranked 64 out of 180 countries.

RSF also condemned a recent draft law that if enacted would prevent companies from outside the European Economic Area from holding a controlling stake in Polish media companies.

Critics see it as an attempt to silence the main independent news channel TVN24, which is often highly critical of the government and whose network TVN is majority owned by United States group Discovery.