Romain Molina: Investigative journalist to sue Cameroon federation
A French investigative journalist says he intends to sue the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) after the body published a statement accusing him of attempted blackmail and extortion.
On Friday, Fecafoot stated that one ‘Romain Molina’ had proposed to drop a story alleging irregularities within Cameroonian football if he was paid 25,000 euros by its president, Samuel Eto’o.
In response, Molina has said the attempted blackmail came from someone impersonating him, adding this should have been clear to Eto’o since he had contacted the former Barcelona striker from his own phone regarding a separate matter in March.
“The only time I spoke to Eto’o was in March – and the conversation I had was to warn him about paedophilia cases in a big football academy in Cameroon,” Molina told BBC Sport Africa.
Molina – who has published several articles unveiling sexual abuse in sport – asserts that a simple check of the phone numbers sending messages to Eto’o would have established that they came from different accounts.
“That so-called number pretending to me is definitely not my number, nor my picture and the guy doesn’t know how to write French properly – there are big mistakes,” he added of a screengrab he has seen of the imposter’s WhatsApp messages.
“So it’s scandalous because when you look at the statement of Fecafoot, they didn’t say it’s me but everyone will believe it’s me.
“My lawyer will definitely sue because it’s a big lie.”
In its statement on Friday, Fecafoot explained that Eto’o – who took charge of the body last year – had been contacted “by a correspondent introducing himself as Romain Molina”.
“He purported to have documents and a flash drive containing audio and telephone conversations that were harmful to the image of the Federation and its president,” the statement read.
“Romain Molina added that he was ready to renounce the publication of these elements in exchange for a payment of 25,000 euros.
“Obviously, the president of Fecafoot never followed up on this request, because it is a principle not to negotiate with blackmailers. In any case, Fecafoot is considering filing a complaint with the French justice system regarding this attempted extortion.”
The Fecafoot statement referred to accusations by Molina in an online video that “Cameroonian players have paid to be called up to the national team”, which the journalist does not dispute.
While saying that he was repeating allegations previously made by other news organisations, such as Le Monde, he says his contact to Eto’o was solely about the sexual abuse allegations at the relevant academy in Cameroon.
Molina maintains that Fecafoot – which has been contacted for comment – failed to carry out its due diligence prior to publishing its statement.
“My client is used to revealing horrible facts relating to football,” said Molina’s France-based lawyer Mokhtar Adbennouri.
“However, it is the first time he has been deeply defamed and smeared in a official statement of a football federation. It is totally unacceptable that a national organisation assumes the right to discredit a journalist.”
Eto’o was recently in Qatar for the ongoing World Cup where Cameroon exited in the group stage, having signed off with a stunning 1-0 win over five-time champions Brazil.