Hungarian court sentences journalist to probation for kicking refugees

January 14, 2017 9:00 pm

A refugee carrying a child falls after being tripped over by TV camerawoman Petra Laszlo (R) while trying to escape from a collection point in Roszke village, , September 8, 2015. (Photo by Reuters)

The Hungarian journalist, who was caught on camera in 2015 kicking and tripping over distraught refugees along the border with Serbia, has been sentenced to three years’ probation.
Hungarian media reported that a court in Szeged District found Petra Laszlo guilty of disorderly conduct following the hearing session, in which the defendant testified via video link.
Judge Illes Nanasi said Laszlo’s behavior “ran counter to societal norms,” adding that the facts of the case did not support the journalist’s claim that her aggressive actions were out of self defense.
The incident took place on September 8, 2015 near the Hungarian border town of Roszke, where Laszlo had gone to film violence-stricken asylum seekers from the Middle East trying to pass through the country on their way to Western .
As she was filming, a number of refugees broke through a police cordon and inadvertently shoved her as they ran by.
Laszlo reacted by kicking two of the refugees as they fled, including a young girl. She also tripped over a male refugee carrying a little child.
The footage went viral over the Internet, triggering widespread criticisms and condemnations from fellow journalists, human rights organizations and ordinary people.
Laszlo said she had been fired by her employer, the internet-based N1 TV, following the incident and the ensuing public outrage.
The camerawoman did not appear in court in person due to her lawyer’s claim that she had received death threats. At the trial session, she mounted a tearful defense, vowing to appeal the sentence.
“It is not a crime if somebody acts to defend herself … she was in danger, and she tried to avert this danger with her actions,” Laszlo’s attorney Ferenc Sipos said.
The court, however, issued the verdict after watching a frame-by-frame examination of her actions during the incident.
Nearly 400,000 refugees and asylum seekers passed through Hungary in 2015 for wealthier European Union states.
The flow, however, slowed dramatically after Prime Minister Viktor Orban ordered the installation of razor-wire fences built along Hungary’s southern border and beefed up laws to block illegal border crossings.
The Hungarian government has on numerous occasions been criticized by international rights groups for adopting tough measures in dealing with refugees.
In a report in September 2016, Amnesty International slammed Hungary for pushing back the refugees arriving in the country to Serbia or detaining them unlawfully in detention centers.
“Appalling treatment and labyrinthine asylum procedures are a cynical ploy to deter asylum-seekers from Hungary’s ever more militarized borders,” the report said.
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