Reporters and photographers covering the Benny Hinn Miracle Crusade on Friday bitterly complained of being kept away from the American televangelist and the ill persons he purported to heal.
During the three-hour rally and in the time leading up to it, media personnel suffered from a constant low-level but persistent intimidation by various classes of security personnel and ushers.
Many got the distinct impression that the organisers did not want the event to be too closely scrutinised.
Except for the choir, dignitaries and a few handpicked ďhealedĒ persons, everyone was kept well away from Hinn.
His stage was cordoned off from the public by a long fence. There was a large exclusion zone in front of the stage, with the closest public seating being 50 feet away from Hinn.
At the start of the event, a TV6 camera crew was seen packing up, apparently expelled, according to what a member of the CCN media house told Sunday Newsday.
Security personnel banned media photographers from taking photos of Hinn while he was preaching, and said they had to stay behind a white line painted on the ground some 40 feet from the stage.
At one stage one press photographer had a row with security personnel who were so distracted in dealing with him, that other photographers were able to sneak a shot.
After Hinn claimed to have healed people, Sunday Newsday sought to observe and speak to some of these people, to judge for ourselves but we were kept from them. Sunday Newsday was twice prevented from approaching persons who were supposedly healed by Hinn. When we approached a group at the west end of the fence we were blocked from them by a dozen ushers who had linked arms in a cordon to isolate the ďhealedĒ persons from scrutiny.
When we went to look at a group of ďhealedĒ persons at the east end of the fence we were chased away by a woman with a mixed-American accent who appeared to be part of Hinnís entourage.
When Sunday Newsday tried to walk across the area in front of the stage we were told to find another route to pass as our presence would interfere with the filming of the event by an American television crew working with Hinn.
Before the event begun, Sunday Newsday had intended to interview some of the ill people, but we felt very intimidated by the ushers and security personnel. Security for the event was provided at several different levels. Firstly were the ushers and security drawn from local churches. Sunday Newsday learnt that among these personnel were plainclothes police officers.
Secondly there were at least two private hired security firms, one firm clad in black, the other sporting red jerseys.
Thirdly there were armed and uniformed members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, plus personnel from the Fire Service.
Fourthly, Sunday Newsday learnt that also present were plainclothes American security personnel who had pressumably travelled with Hinn.
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