ROSZKE, Hungary (AP) — The Associated Press is protesting the brief detention of one of its journalists by Hungarian police as he covered migrants crossing the border, saying he was forced to delete footage that included images of a police dog knocking down a refugee. Hungary disputed the account Tuesday.
The incident took place Saturday evening as the cameraman, Luca Muzi, was filming migrants who had crossed from Serbia through fields near the Hungarian town of Roszke. Police moved in to stop the people, and one policeman let a muzzled police dog attack a Syrian man, knocking him to the ground as the Syrian cried out, "Please, please, I'm a refugee!" Muzi said.
A policewoman noticed Muzi filming the scene and stopped him. He identified himself as an AP journalist and tried to leave, but was not allowed to. The police officers also prevented Muzi from calling his editors or two other AP journalists traveling with him, Muzi said.
The officers took Muzi to a dark area outside a migrant registration center and demanded to see Muzi's footage, then told him to delete it, he said. The footage contained two days of work in Serbia and Hungary. Muzi said he was compelled to delete the tape while feeling menaced by muzzled police dogs nearby.
In its protest letter to Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs on Tuesday, the AP called the officers' behavior "unacceptable" and said journalists "should be able to cover news events without ... risking physical abuse, and without fear that the government will destroy legally obtained footage."
Kovacs, citing police reports on the incident, disputed the AP's account. He said the officers asked Muzi to show him whether there were any images of them on his camera — which he insisted they are allowed to do — and found that there were not, so they made no request to delete any footage. Kovacs also said the dogs were kept on their leashes throughout the incident.
"The dogs may bark — that is what they are trained for, to be a deterrent and a bit frightening — that is why there is a dog. But ... it is certain that the dogs did not attack," he said in a phone interview from the border area.
Muzi said that only after deleting the footage were his identification papers returned and he was allowed to go.