Under Tight Security, Oprah Makes Visit to Haiti

Oprah WinfreyOprah Winfrey toured an encampment for
Haitians displaced by a massive 2010 earthquake under tight security
Monday, with a local photographer detained for about 90 minutes as he
tried to cover the event.


Winfrey, escorted by
security guards, walked among the tents with the actor Sean Penn, who
helped create an aid group that provides support to people who live in
the encampment. Winfrey said Penn’s efforts will be featured in an
upcoming program on her Oprah Winfrey Network.

“This
is part of the next chapter, going around the world to see interesting
and fascinating cases of profound examples of what can be done to make a
difference in the world,” Winfrey told reporters at the encampment.

Penn
said he welcomed the interest of “the world’s most elegant woman” and
expected it would help Haiti. The camp where his group works was built
on a former country club golf course and has been home to thousands of
people since the earthquake left much of the Haitian capital in ruins.

“Everybody
who has spent time in Haiti knows how important it is for the world to
see what is going on here. … We really appreciate that she’s here with
us,” Penn said.

Winfrey came to Haiti on
Sunday under tight security. Guards and police cleared the airport so
journalists could not film her arrival. Her representatives have not
provided any details about her itinerary, though President Michel
Martelly said he intended to meet with her.

Security was out in force during her visit with Penn at the encampment.

Photographer
Lionel Lafortune, who was among several journalists trying to cover
Winfrey, was detained by a guard as he entered the encampment and took
photos.

An Associated Press journalist saw a
private security guard grab Lafortune, who works for the newspaper Haiti
Progress, and drag him into a small police station at the camp, where
officers demanded that he erase the memory card from his camera and
refused to let him leave.

The photographer
declined to delete the photo, and police continued to hold him until a
more senior official, Police Inspector Jean-Lionel Aurelien, arrived and
ordered him released, saying, “Journalists have the right to work
without intimidation.”

Later, a Winfrey spokesman, Chance Patterson, said the guard apparently didn’t realize Lafortune was a journalist.

“No
one knew who he was, or what he had been doing or who he was with,”
said Patterson, a senior vice president for Harpo Studios, the producer
of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” who is accompanying Winfrey on her trip
this week.

“He just came running in apparently
and started taking photos and he was stopped and then the supervisor
came and said, ‘Let him go,'” Patterson told the AP. “That was it.”

Source: Evans Sanon, The Associated Press