The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is calling on Ethiopian authorities to release two journalists accused of "undermining the constitution", a charge that could carry the death penalty.
Dessu Dulla and Bikila Amenu, journalists with the Oromia News Network (ONN) online television station, were arrested on 18 November 2021, CPJ said in a statement received Tuesday, International Press Freedom Day.
ONN is considered close to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an opposition party that has renounced armed struggle since its leaders returned from exile after current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the first Oromo to take office in 2018.
"After months of arbitrary detention, the prosecution of Ethiopian journalists Dessu Dulla and Bikila Amenu on subversion charges, which could potentially carry the death penalty, is outrageous," CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal said in a statement.
"The authorities had months to establish credible charges against the journalists and their failure to do so simply shows that the process is retaliatory in nature," she added, saying that "Mr. Dessu and Mr. Bikila should be released immediately and unconditionally.
According to the CPJ, the two journalists are due to appear in court on Tuesday 3 May, after several postponements.
The charge for the two journalists attracts a penalty of three years to life imprisonment, but according to Mr Gudane, their lawyer, the prosecution is asking for the application of Article 258 of the Penal Code, which provides for the death penalty in case of aggravating circumstances, such as when the acts were committed during a civil war.