Here’s the kicker: Hungarian journalist exposes Arab media hypocrisy

Camerawoman Petra László’s act of kicking Syrian refugees was disgraceful. And so is the stance on the crisis held by many Arab journalists

Diana Moukalled

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If a journalist’s job is, supposedly, to expose the suffering of others, but instead they kick a child as the entire world watches, it's obvious that they should pay the price.

Hungarian camerawoman Petra László lost her job, future and credibility after her colleagues’ cameras documented the moment she meanly kicked a girl and a father carrying his son, as they and other Syrian refugees fled police at the border between Hungary and Serbia.

Amid all the condemnation of László, who later apologized, images of the incident became some sort of visible summary of all the hate and racism of European right-wing parties and their objection to the refugees.

But wait a minute. We, particularly Arabs, who are angry at this woman must take a deep breath – and then take a look at ourselves.

Let us think about what Arab journalists are committing against refugees, and against the many weak minorities in our societies, in the name of a commitment to a cause.

Diana Moukalled

Yes, we are right to be angry of László’s behavior. But let’s be a little humble before we demonize her and the entire West, which at this moment seems to be the only refuge for those escaping death in Syria.

Embodying the right wing

Why did the Hungarian camerawoman anger us?

It’s because she violated humanitarian and journalistic principles. However, there is another face to what László did. She embodied the type of journalist who covers events as if they were part of the struggle involved, rather than an objective observer. And it is clear she is committed to the right-wing, with its fear and rejection of refugees.

Some among us think that objective journalism – which is performed via observing – is no more, and that we’ve now entered the era of journalism that’s loyal to either side of a struggle.

Isn’t this what László did?

Let’s look at this in the Arab countries. Let’s review what other Arab journalists did at the same time that this Hungarian woman committed that horrible act against fleeing Syrian refugees.

An article by one Arab author actually criticized the Syrian refugees, describing them in a manner that was harsher and more racist than the Hungarian camerawoman’s act. The author described the millions of Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe as people Syria doesn’t need.


Many other Arab journalists openly declare their bias to a certain party. And that then endorses those who are responsible for the death of thousands.

You could argue that, while journalists may be biased towards a particular cause, they have not reached the level of kicking a child or a father and his son.

But as a matter of fact, they’ve done worse than that. They committed sins that are worse than what the Hungarian camerawoman did. They have supported dictator regimes. They supported imprisonment, the execution of activists, and they overlooked torture. They supported wars that falsely claimed they were aimed at restoring sovereignty. They supported the persecution of minorities.

There is much hypocrisy in how the media deals with the Syrian refugee crisis. Some condemn what the Hungarian camerawoman did, yet incite others against Syrian refugees in their own countries, and calling for their expulsion. The list of violations against the refugees goes on and on.

So let the West hold László accountable. And let us think about what Arab journalists are committing against refugees, and against the many weak minorities in our societies, in the name of their commitment to a cause.

It’s true that what László did brought shame to journalism.

But she only did what some have been committing in the name of journalism for years. And that has serious consequences far worse than that despicable kick.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on September 14, 2015.
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

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