Hungarian camerawoman faces criminal charges for kicking refugees

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Video grab of a Hungarian TV camerawoman kicking a child as she run with other migrants from police during disturbances at Roszke, southern Hungary, on September 9, 2015 (AFP Photo)
Agence France-Presse
Hungarian prosecutors said Thursday they had opened a criminal investigation for breach of peace against a camerawoman caught on film as she tripped and kicked migrants who were fleeing border police.
 
In the footage, which sparked global outrage, Petra Laszlo can be seen tripping up a man sprinting with a child in his arms, and kicking another running child near the town of Roszke, close to the border with Serbia.
It later emerged that Laszlo, who was fired over her actions, had been working for N1TV, an Internet-based television station close to Hungary\’s far-right Jobbik party.
Two small opposition parties filed a criminal complaint against Laszlo shortly after the video began circulating on social media Tuesday.
"In the course of the investigation, the authorities will also examine if more serious crimes… can be established," said Sandor Toro, the deputy chief prosecutor of Csongrad county.
A "Wall of Shame" page on Facebook featuring pictures, videos and commentaries linked to the incident involving Laszlo had gathered more than 30,000 likes by Thursday.
 
"You are a disgrace to your profession," one user wrote.
The incident occurred as hundreds of migrants broke through a police line at a collection point close to the Serbian border where thousands have been crossing each day for the past month.
"These are shocking images. You\’re part of a news agency. With your hand you\’re shooting and with your leg you\’re hurting someone else," said Aniko Bakonyi of human rights group Hungarian Helsinki Committee.
The video showed Laszlo was "only kicking foreigners, no-one else, including a child who was clearly an asylum-seeker", Bakonyi added.
"Since she\’s been working as a cameraperson there, she clearly knew who she was kicking. It wasn\’t by accident, there is no mistake in that." 
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Hungarian camerawoman \’regrets\’ kicking refugees
A Hungarian camerawoman who caused global outrage after being caught on film tripping and kicking refugees as they fled police apologised Friday and said that she has received death threats.
 
"I panicked. I\’m not a heartless, child-kicking racist camera-person," Petra Laszlo wrote in a letter to Hungarian newspaper Magyar Nemzet published on its website.
"As I watch the footage now, it\’s like I\’m not watching myself. I honestly regret what I have done and take responsibility for it."
In the footage, which spread rapidly across the Internet earlier this week, Laszlo, 40, can be seen tripping a man sprinting with a child in his arms, and kicking another running child near the town of Roszke, close to the border with Serbia.
She was fired from her job at N1TV, an Internet-based television station close to Jobbik — seen as one of Europe\’s most extreme far-right parties — and also faces criminal charges for breaching the peace.
Laszlo was detained for questioning by police on Thursday and later released.
 
"Only now could I get myself together enough to be able to write. I\’m in a state of shock because of what I did and what has been done to me," she wrote to the newspaper.
"I was recording with the camera when hundreds of migrants broke through the police cordon, one of them ran into me and I panicked.
"I was afraid as they were rushing toward me and then something snapped in my head. As I had my camera in my hand I couldn\’t see who was coming at me, my only thought was that I was going to be attacked, and that I had to defend myself," she added.
 
She added that as "a mother I\’m particularly sorry that fate had it that a child was running at me, and I wasn\’t able to sense that.
 
"It\’s not easy to make a good decision when you\’re in a panic."
A "Wall of Shame" page on Facebook featuring pictures, videos and commentaries linked to the incident had gathered more than 35,000 "likes" by Friday.
"You are a disgrace to your profession," was the typical sentiment from one user.
Laszlo said she did not "deserve either the political witch hunt that is going on against me or the smears or the many death threats".
"I\’m just a woman, now unemployed mother of small children, who made a bad decision in a panic situation."
According to Hungarian media, Laszlo has been a camerawoman for 20 years, having previously worked for right-wing channel Echo TV.
Hungary has become a frontline state in Europe\’s migrant crisis with more than 175,000 crossing the border with Serbia this year. Almost all seek to travel onwards to western Europe.
The authorities have struggled to cope and are building a fence four metres (13 feet) high all along the 175-kilometre Serbian border, despite widespread criticism in Europe.
Right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban\’s government has also introduced tough new legislation making it a criminal offence punishable by jail to cross the border, and aims to deploy soldiers.
SOURCE: AFP

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