Ugandan authorities must credibly investigate an assault on broadcast journalist Juliet Kyarisiima, hold the perpetrators to account, and ensure that journalists covering public events do not face violence, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On the evening of May 12, in Uganda’s western Buhweju District, three men armed with sticks and machetes assaulted freelance reporter Kyarisiima while she was covering a public meeting on a land dispute pitting the local Catholic church and its parishioners against a businessman, according to media reports and the journalist, who spoke with CPJ via telephone.

The meeting, presided over by the local member of parliament Francis Mwijukye, had just concluded when a group of about seven men armed with machetes, hoes, and sticks came running towards the participants and started assaulting them, Kyarisiima said. 

Three of the men confronted Kyarisiima and one ordered her to hand over her camera and a bag containing her laptop and about 500,000 shillings (US$132); a second man slapped her in the face; and a third hit her with a stick on her right arm, she said. When she ran, the men threw stones at her.

“All too often, Ugandan journalists face violence in the course of their work and their attackers get away scot free. Holding such perpetrators to account is crucial so journalists can safely do their jobs without fear of reprisal,” said CPJ Africa Program coordinator, Muthoki Mumo, in Nairobi. “Ugandan authorities must ensure a credible and transparent investigation into the assault on journalist Juliet Kyarisiima.”

Kyarisiima told CPJ that she did not sustain injuries that required medical attention, but she felt pain in her eyes and on her right arm. The journalist said she reported the incident to Burere Police Station in Buhweju District and officers recorded it as a “simple robbery” case.

Mwijukye, who was also injured during the attack, was quoted by the independent Daily Monitor newspaper alleging that the assailants were hired by an unnamed local resident involved in the land wrangle. Daily Monitor posted on X that Mwijukye was receiving treatment in hospital.

CPJ’s calls and text messages to Mwijukye went unanswered. Tito Kwesigabo, a member of the Rwanyamabare Catholic Church told CPJ in a telephone interview that that they are waiting for the police investigation to run its course.

Greater Bushenyi police spokesperson Martial Tumusiime, whose jurisdiction includes Buhweju District, told CPJ by phone that the police would investigate Kyarisiima’s assault and robbery and make arrests.

CPJ has documented several incidents where journalists covering public events in Uganda have been targeted with robberies, detention, and assault.