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Hungarian Journalist Kicking Syrian Refugees Rouses Disapproval and Outrage Worldwide

Petra Laszlo, protagonista del deplorable incidente. Imagen de la web RVF con licencia CC BY-NC 4.0

Petra Laszlo, the woman behind this deplorable incident Image from RVF website with CC BY-NC 4.0 license

Hungarian journalist Petra Laszlo has become one of the most hated people on social media, following the release of a video showing her tripping up and kicking several Syrian refugees who were running away from the police in Röszke, Hungary.

The refugee crisis, to put it gently, has taken Europeans by surprise. And, while politicians are lost in never-ending debates without coming to any agreements, citizens are divided. Many citizens support the efforts that are being made to grant asylum to families now fleeing the war and some are even offering their own homes to shelter them. Many others, however, remain suspicious and see this “invasion” as a threat to their societies, their cultures, and their religions. Conservative governments in some European countries have also encouraged various phobias about refugees, including Hungarian President Viktor Orbán, who recently accused Muslim refugees of endangering Christianity in Europe.

Syrian refugees are arriving in Europe from Turkey via the “Balkan route,” which passes through Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia. Upon entering Hungary, they are held in the Röszke refugee camp, which is tightly guarded by the Hungarian police. The majority of refugees hope to reach Germany, not only because it is the country with the most opportunities in Europe, but also because many of them have family or friends there already.

Many on their way to Germany now fear the application of the Dublin Regulation, which forces refugees to ask for asylum in whatever European country they first arrive. Although Germany has agreed to suspend the application of this protocol, the refugees don't trust the authorities and are trying to reach Germany as quickly as possible, without being identified en route.

Journalist Petra Laszlo found herself filming one of these mass refugee arrivals, when her controversial actions were caught on video. The footage went viral within a few hours of being recorded. In the video, Laszlo can clearly be seen kicking two children who were running with their parent. Later, she trips up a refugee carrying a child in his arms, causing him to drop the child:

Petra Laszlo, who works for the TV N1 news channel, has connections with the far-right and is a supporter of the Hungarian nationalist party, Jobbik. The television network fired Laszlo immediately after the video was released online. Internet users, meanwhile, have supplied many more reactions, expressing their outrage from all over the world:

From Turkey, Eyüp Gökhan Özekin writes:

 #PetraLaszlo What an inhumane, repulsive “woman”(!) you are. I'm saddened to share my planet with you. I hope you pay for what you have done.

In Brussels, Marcel Sel reminds Laszlo of Hungary's own turbulent history:

The popular Spanish Twitter user Señorita Puri jokes sarcastically about the other people in the news:

Journalist Petra László fired for attacking Syrian refugees. Donald Trump is signing up Petra László.

— Señorita Puri (@SenoritaPuri) September 8, 2015

In Greece, dimbit is emphatic:

The Hungarian journalist Szabolcs Panyi puts a face to the man that dropped his child who was in his arms, thanks to Laszio:

The man kicked by #PetraLaszlo. Turned out he was tortured under Assad & escaped from ISIS.

On Facebook, the tone wasn't any less aggressive. Numerous posts published about the incident by news websites on social network pages received thousands of angry comments:

Belle Lindsay
Me alegro de que ya no tenga trabajo. Ahora debería quedarse sin casa, entonces quizás conocería la vida a la que se enfrentan muchas de esas personas

I'm pleased she is now unemployed, she needs to be homeless as well. Then maybe she may know the life that many of these people are facing.

Maxine Millner
No puedo creer que una mujer haga daño intencionadamente a la gente de esa forma… una persona enferma y perturbada sin empatía, humanidad ni compasión. ¡Podemos pasar sin gente como ella en el mundo!

I can't believe a woman would intentionally hurt young people like that…a sick disturbed individual with no empathy, sympathy or compassion. We could do without people like her in the world!

Rafael Eduardo Rodriguez
Que inhumana esa mujer periodista, deja mucho que desear como periodista y como persona…. Quisiera verla en la posición de esos pobres sirios y que alguien le hiciera lo mismo a ella.

What an inhumane woman and journalist. She leaves a lot to be desired as a journalist and as a person …. I would like to see her in the same position as these poor Syrians and see someone do the same to her”

Angeles Alvarez Menendez 
Menos mal….ahora mandenla a Siria…a ver que le parece vivir bajo los bombardeos, o que le corten la cabeza porque es cristiana!

Thank heavens … now send her to Syria to see if she likes living under attacks or to see them cut off her head because she is Christian!

Amidst such voices criticizing this woman, there are also those who defend her, albeit with poorly documented comments:

Tito Nochez
Si la personas estas sufren y todo pero ¿alguien se a dado cuenta de los destrozos que están haciendo en cada lugar que llegan? ¿Y el comportamiento tan basura que demuestran ellos ante la ayuda que la EU les ofrece? Sinceramente estas “personas” no son dignas de la ayuda que se les esta dando hasta cierto punto

Yes, people are suffering and all, but does nobody realise the damage that they are causing to the places in which they are arriving? And what about the terrible behaviour they are showing towards the help that the EU is offering them? Frankly, to a certain extent these “people” don't deserve the help that they are being given.”

This incident has also made more visible Europe suspicions about the new wave of refugees. One read of the online French newspaper left this comment:

Il va falloir que l'UE explique sérieusement à ces pays de l'ex bloc de l'est que nous avons des valeurs en occident. Je pense à la Hongrie et à la Pologne, par exemple qui n'acceptent aucun réfugiés par contre ils acceptent tout à fait les subventions européennes. A partir d'aujourd'hui ce devrait être réfugiés et subventions ou pas de réfugiés et pas de subventions.

The EU will seriously have to explain to these countries of the old Eastern bloc that in the West we have values. I think that in Hungary and Poland, for example, they don't accept any refugees, but they gladly accept European subsidies. From today onwards, it should be refugees as well as subsidies or no refugees no subsidies.

Laszlo has apologized in an open letter.

Read more of our special coverage: Streams of Refugees Seek Sanctuary in Europe

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