Michael Doppas Dom, presenter of a popular daily sports show, “Sport and Investigation,” at the privately owned broadcaster Soleil FM, in the Cameroonian capital Yaoundé, was arrested on November 28, 2018, for allegedly defaming former national football team captain Samuel Eto’o, according to a local news report and the radio station’s manager, Joseph Nyassa, who spoke to CPJ.
CPJ could not determine which comments led to the accusations against Dom. Nyassa said Dom was targeted for referring to Eto’o as “a lion with a golden foot and black heart." Another Soleil FM colleague, Jean Solaire Nkuete, told CPJ that the show centered around Eto’o’s influence on football in Cameroon and the national team, known as the “Indomitable Lions.” Meanwhile, a local news report said that Dom accused Eto’o of homosexuality, which is a criminal offense in Cameroon, during the show on September 17, 2018. Nyassa sent CPJ three separate recordings of the show’s broadcasts about Eto’o, but CPJ’s review of the recordings did not turn up allegations of homosexuality.
Nkuete said that another guest on the show, sport analyst Sébastien Ebale, decried some of the “sexual deviances” attributed to Eto’o.
Dom, Ebale, and the director of the station, Soleil Nyassa (Joseph Nyassa’s brother), were summoned on November 12 to appear at the Yaounde administrative court to answer questions about the alleged defamatory broadcasts, according to Joseph Nyassa, the privately owned online publication Cameroun Web, and a copy of the summons posted on Twitter by the publication 237online.com.
Dom arrived for questioning on November 28, but his two colleagues stayed away, a person with knowledge of the case who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal told CPJ. Neither Soleil Nyassa nor Ebale could be reached for comment.
Dom is being detained at Yaoundé’s Kondengui Central Prison, Joseph Nyassa told CPJ. No date has been set for Dom’s next court appearance, Nyassa said. CPJ could not determine whether he has been formally charged.
Several calls from CPJ to the journalist’s lawyer, Mballe Manassé, went unanswered.
CPJ was unable to connect to a UK cellphone number provided for Eto’o. Eto’o’s lawyer, Elame Bony, initially answered his phone and asked CPJ to call back in two hours; however, when CPJ later tried to reach him, no one answered his phone.
Dom faced a separate, parallel process with the National Communication Council, according to Peter Essoka, the president of Cameroon’s media regulatory body. “I don’t have any idea of the criminality of what he did, but we checked on his case and it’s a case of ethics,” said Essoka during a telephone interview on December 1, 2018. “If Samuel Eto’o took it to court that is his problem, the issue came to the communications council and we treated it accordingly,” he said, adding, “we intend to sanction, but not to send him to prison, absolutely not.” According to a local news reports, Eto’o’s complaint was filed on September 25 and was heard by the NCC on October 4.