A German journalists' association is protesting a nationalist party's decision to exclude the press from sessions at an upcoming regional congress.

The Alternative for Germany party's branch in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, says it decided to restrict access to the July 2-3 party meeting in Werl out of respect for "our delegates', members' and patrons' interest in the protection of their privacy rights." Instead, the press was offered access to two media events.

The state's press association said in an open letter Thursday that the party, which has been surging in polls, must allow for "reporting without restrictions," calling the ban a "serious attack" on the freedom of the press, the dpa news agency reported.

The state will hold elections next May.