Nairobi, January 3, 2020—Burundi’s public prosecutor on December 30 asked for a 15-year prison term for four journalists for privately owned online news outlet Iwacu and their driver who are charged with undermining state security, according to Iwacu and other news reports. The prosecutor is also seeking to have the five stripped of their right to vote for five years after the imprisonment, and to have their property–including phones, camera, and a company car–confiscated, according to the same reports. The court is expected to rule on the case later in January, the same sources said.

The news team—broadcast reporter Christine Kamikazi, head of politics desk Agnès Ndirubusa, English service reporter Egide Harerimana, photojournalist Térence Mpozenzi, and driver Adolphe Masabarikiza—were arrested in October 2019 while reporting on clashes in the country’s Bubanza province,CPJ reported at the time. The four journalists remain in prison while Masabarikiza was released in November, according toCPJ research.

“The Iwacu staff should have never been arrested, and the prosecutor’s request for a 15-year prison term reveals just how hostile Burundi has become toward the independent press,” said CPJ sub-Saharan Africa Representative Muthoki Mumo. “We call on the Burundian authorities to unconditionally release Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Egide Harerimana, and Térence Mpozenzi and to drop all charges against Adolphe Masabarikiza.”