In the midst of Europe’s refugee crisis, a viral video of Hungarian camerawoman Petra Laszlo intentionally tripping a frantic Syrian man has shown inhumanity and highlighted a negative side of photojournalism.
In the video, uploaded to Youtube on September 8, Laszlo attacks numerous people who are rushing the border while attempting to enter Central Europe after fleeing the war and terrorism that has engulfed much of the Middle East and North Africa. As these refugees run for their lives, Laszlo is seen tripping a Syrian man carrying a child in his arms.
Her actions, which led to the loss of her job, have caused international anger.
“Why would anyone interfere during such a critical situation? Simply standing there and watching is better than inflicting harm on those in need,” South Pasadena High School senior Mina Song told JSR.
In addition to her disregard for human decency, Laszlo also showed disregard for journalistic ethics. Reporters shouldn’t alter the size, shape, and color of a photograph because doing so can “create a new truth,” according to the Journalism Ethics website.
Photojournalists have been manipulating images since at least the Crimean War, in the early 1850s, during which British photojournalist Roger Fenton was accused of staging images to dramatize the scenes and struggles of the war. Though photojournalists are supposed to be passive documentarians, manipulating photos can manipulate public perception and even policy.
Ethical photojournalists don’t set up any objects or people. The photos they take must be candid and natural, and they must convey the actual news.
Laszlo broke that rule, clearly. Perhaps she wanted more dramatic photographs to appeal to her viewers’ pathos. If that was her motive, then she purposefully hurt innocent people for her pictures. She had no right to interfere.
This incident with Petra Laszlo has shown a dark reality. But fortunately, it also provides a lesson. As members of JSR prepare to become professional journalists, we should remember this controversy and be considerate of all ethical principles.
Journalists should help others voice their opinions and needs. We should not abuse or manipulate them.