On June 25, 2016, one student was killed, and a group of university buildings was set on fire, on the campus of Papua New Guinea University of Technology (Unitech) in the northern city of Lae. The attacks occurred following several weeks of anti-government protests on campuses throughout the country.
Protests had been going on at Unitech for roughly one week when, on the evening of June 25, a group of individuals, reportedly armed with bush knives, killed an undergraduate student in what was reportedly a targeted attack. The individuals then set fire to several university buildings, according to university personnel. Security forces arrived the next morning, ending the clashes and evacuating students from campus temporarily.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparently targeted killing of a student, as well as the destruction of university property. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and freedom of expression. Likewise, the right to free expression on campus does not extend to violence or the destruction of property. On-campus expression must be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with university values including social responsibility. Student violence against persons or property also creates unnecessary risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy. State authorities have a responsibility to ensure the security of academic communities, to prevent future attacks, and to hold perpetrators of violent attacks accountable.