Sunday 11 December 2016

Hungarian camerawoman 'sorry' for kicking refugees

Published 11/09/2015 | 11:54

Migrants protest at a makeshift camp for asylum seekers near Roszke, southern Hungary. (AP)
Migrants protest at a makeshift camp for asylum seekers near Roszke, southern Hungary. (AP)

A Hungarian camerawoman caught on video kicking and tripping migrants near the Serbian border has offered a qualified apology for her behaviour.

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Petra Laszlo said in a letter published in the daily Magyar Nemzet newspaper that she was "sincerely sorry for what happened", but added: "I was scared as they streamed toward me, and then something snapped inside me."

The 40-year-old was fired by the right-wing N1TV online channel after footage of her kicking and tripping migrants as they fled from police near the village of Roszke went viral on social media.

Police questioned her on suspicion of disorderly conduct on Thursday. Officers released her without charge and said the investigation is continuing.

N1TV's editor Szabolcs Kisberk said her employment was "terminated with immediate effect", adding that she "behaved unacceptably" at a police-supervised collection point for Arabs, Asians and Africans crossing the border from Serbia.

In videos and images posted online by multiple reporters, Ms Laszlo could be seen making sideways karate-style kicks into the knees of two people - a young man and a teenage girl - as they ran past her. Both stumbled but neither fell as Ms Laszlo continued filming.

She was also seen filming a running man carrying a young boy in his arms then sticking out her leg to trip him as he passed. The man and boy tumbled to the ground, the man falling on top of the child. The boy could be seen crying as the man leapt up to curse the camerawoman, who continued to film him.

Two left-wing opposition parties - former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's Democratic Coalition and the Dialogue for Hungary - said they would report Ms Laszlo to police in the hope of getting her charged with assault, a crime with a potential prison sentence. Dialogue for Hungary politician Timea Szabo said Ms Laszlo demonstrated "the pits of human behaviour".

Ms Laszlo said: "With the camera in my hands, I didn't see who was coming toward me. I just thought they were on the attack and I had to defend myself. It's hard to make good decisions when one is panicking."

She criticised those who condemned her on social media sites and said she had received death threats.

"I am not a heartless, child-kicking, racist camera operator. I do not deserve the political witch hunt that has been launched against me, nor do I deserve the abusive threats that often call for my death. I am just a woman, who has recently become an unemployed mother," she wrote.

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