In Hungary, police beat journalists covering refugee crisis at border

New York, September 17, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the actions of Hungarian police who, according to reports, attacked journalists covering the arrival of refugees at the Serbian-Hungarian border. At least seven international journalists were beaten by riot police yesterday, and a video journalist from The Associated Press was ordered to delete footage on Saturday, according to reports.

“We are appalled by the police violence against journalists covering this world story,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “The Hungarian government must make a clear and unequivocal statement that it will not tolerate such behavior.”

International journalists have been gathering at the Horgoš-Röszke border crossing where refugees fleeing violence and unrest are trying to enter Hungary to find safety in Europe. The EU is due to hold an emergency summit on September 23 to discuss the divided response from member states to the migrants, according to reports. Refugees trying to enter Hungarian territory at the crossing yesterday were faced with riot police using water cannons, tear gas, and batons, according to reports.

According to press reports and social media accounts, at least seven international journalists said they had been beaten by Hungarian riot police. At least four said they were detained or questioned. Jovana Djurović, from Radio Television Serbia, said police attacked her and the station’s cameraman Vladan Hadži Mijailović, and sound engineer Miroslav Đurašinović. In an interview for RTS, Djurović said the television crew told police they were journalists, but that did not prevent the police from striking them and damaging their equipment. The journalists were taken to hospital to be treated for injuries, according to reports.

Jacek Tacik, a reporter for Polish public broadcaster TVP, was struck in the head with a baton by police and detained for 13 hours on the accusation that he had crossed the border illegally, according to local press reports. Tímea Beck, a reporter for Slovak daily Denník N, said in an account published in her paper that police struck her with batons and handcuffed her after she tried to help a family of refugees. “They started beating me with a baton, tied my hands tightly with a plastic wrap and threw me to the ground,” Beck told Denník N. The reporter said she was detained by police for a few hours and questioned before being released, according to the English-language biweekly The Slovak Spectator.

Australian photographer Warren Richardson was kicked in the head and chest by police and Swedish photographer Meli Petersson Ellafi, who works for Swedish newspaper Expressen, was knocked to the ground by police who were carrying clubs, according to reports.

The AP said that one of its cameramen, Luca Muzi, was obstructed by police on Saturday while filming refugees. Muzi identified himself to police as an AP journalist but was prevented from calling his editors and was forced to delete footage, which the AP said included film of a police dog knocking down a Syrian refugee. The AP says Hungary has disputed Muzi’s account.

Hungarian police denied any wrongdoing in a statement published by the AP today. “Police categorically reject statements which take it as fact that police ‘beat up’ journalists,” the statement read. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto defended police conduct in an interview with the local MTI news agency, saying officers neither threatened nor obstructed journalists, the AP reported.

  • CPJ is due to release a report on September 29 on press freedom in the EU. Click here for more details.