A Hungarian camerawoman who caused global outrage after being caught on film tripping and kicking refugees as they fled police broke her silence on Friday, saying she had “panicked”.
“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,” wrote Petra Laszlo in a letter to Hungarian newspaper Magyar Nemzet published on its website.
“I panicked. I’m not a heartless, child-kicking racist camera-person,” she added.
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 Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, and also faces criminal charges for breaching the peace.
She 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.
“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 witchhunt 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.”