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'I panicked' says Hungarian camerawoman

Kate BradySeptember 11, 2015

A Hungarian camera woman who was filmed by a German journalist as she kicked two refugee children and tripped up a man in Röszke, southern Hungary, has apologized. Petra László has said she is "not a heartless racist."

Hungarian camera woman Petra László in Röszke, Hungary
Image: Reuters/M. Djurica

In a letter published on Thursday in the Hungarian right-wing daily "Magyar Nemzet," László said she could not believe her actions.

"The camera was shooting, hundreds of migrants broke through the police cordon, one of them rushed to me, and I was scared," she wrote.

"Then something snapped in me … I just thought that I was attacked and I have to protect myself. It's hard to make good decisions at a time when people are in a panic."

László added that she was willing to take responsibility for her actions, but insisted that she was not a "heartless, racist, children-kicking camerawoman."

"I do not deserve the political witch-hunts against me, nor the smears or the death threats," she said.

Social media storm

Footage of László kicking two children and kicking a man close to the Hungarian-Serbian border first emerged online on Tuesday after German reporter Stephan Richter posted the video on Twitter.

László was fired by Hungarian television channel N1TV shortly after. The station has a close association with the far-right, anti-immigration opposition party Jobbik.

In a statement released on Tuesday, N1TV said László had shown "unacceptable behavior" toward refugees.

"We have terminated the contract of the camerawoman with immediate effect today," the statement added.

Budapest steps up securtity

Hungary has taken a hard-line stance against the current influx of refugees to Europe. Tens of thousands of asylum seekers arrived there last week after word got out that the Balkan route would soon be closed.

Having already stretched three layers of barbed wire along the 175-kilometer border with Serbia, Budapest is now speeding up construction of a solid, 4-meter-high metal fence in an effort to control the huge number of refugees.

The Hungarian army also announced on Wednesday that soldiers had conducted a military exercise called "Decisive Action" in order to prepare for possible deployment to the same Serbian border.