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In a letter to Hungarian newspaper Magyar Nemzet, Petra Laszlo, who was sacked from her job at ultra-nationalist Internet news service N1TV after the incident on Tuesday, says she “honestly” regretted kicking and tripping refugees and was ready to take responsibility for her actions.
“As I watch the footage now, it’s like I’m not watching myself,” she wrote in the letter. “I honestly regret what I have done and take responsibility for it.” She added: “I panicked. I’m not a heartless, child-kicking racist.”
Lazslo was caught on camera by other journalists covering Europe’s refugee crisis at a collection point for migrants at Hungary’s border with Serbia.
In the video, she is seen kicking a young man and teenage girl in the knees as they run near her. She is then seen filming a man carrying a small child. As they pass her, she puts her leg out to trip him over, continuing to film as she does so.
Laszlo, who faces criminal charges carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison if convicted, went into hiding after bosses at N1TV, which is closely linked with Hungary’s right-wing nationalist party Jobbik, said she was detained by police Thursday but later released.
Saying she had been in a “state of shock” since the incident, she explained that when “hundreds of migrants broke through the police cordon, one of them ran into me, and I panicked.”
Laszlo, who has children of her own, says that “something snapped” in her head and she thought she was going to be attacked and struck out in self-defense. “I’m just an unemployed mother of small children, who made a bad decision,” she wrote. “I am truly sorry.”
After Stephan Richter, a reporter for German television channel RTL, posted the video of the incident on Twitter, it went viral.
Hungary has been at the center of media attention as a key hub for hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking asylum in Germany and other northern European countries after wars in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. The EU country’s right-wing government has been criticized for failing to help refugees and constructing a 100 miles-long razor wire-topped fence along its border with Serbia.
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