Brazil : Mounting concern about British journalist missing in Brazilian Amazon
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Brazilian authorities to redouble their efforts to locate Dom Phillips, a British journalist, and Bruno Araújo Pereira, a Brazilian expert in his country’s indigenous communities, who have been missing in the Javari Valley region in the far west of Brazil’s Amazonas state since 5 June.
All contact with Phillips and Pereira was lost in this remote region near the Peruvian border when they were travelling by boat from the locality of São Rafael to Atalaia do Norte, a town 1,135 km west of Manaus.
The Union of Javari Valley Indigenous Organisations (Univaja) said the two men had planned to visit an indigenous monitoring team in the Lake Jaburu region and then return to Atalaia do Norte. Several sources confirmed that they had a satellite phone and enough fuel to complete the journey.
Based in the Brazilian city of Salvador, Phillips is a freelance journalist who works for many international media outlets including The Guardian, Financial Times, Washington Post, New York Times and The Intercept. He specialises in environmental issues and most of his latest stories for The Guardian have been about cattle ranching, mining and soya farming in protected Amazonian forest regions.
He had gone to the Javari Valley with Pereira to conduct interviews in preparation for a book on these issues. Pereira has often been threatened in connection with his defence of Brazil’s indigenous communities and was threatened again just a few days before his disappearance.
“The Brazilian government must urgently coordinate the efforts of the federal police and armed forces to find Dom Phillips and Bruno Araújo Pereira,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the director of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “Every second that passes is a second wasted.”
In a statement yesterday (6 June), the Brazilian navy said it had sent a team of seven sailors aboard a launch to search for the two men. This is utterly inadequate for such a dense, hostile and remote region. Without helicopters, it is virtually impossible to reconnoitre and cover the region where they disappeared.
The Brazilian armed forces, which is not short of appropriate resources for this kind of search, said in a laconic statement that it was awaiting orders from the government to step up efforts to find them. Such instructions had yet to be issued more than 24 hours after they were reported missing.
This Tuesday (7), along with 10 other organizations that work in defense of freedom of expression and of the press in Brazil, RSF requested an emergency audience with the Ministers of Justice and Defense to address the issue. RSF awaits an urgent response from the Brazilian government on the request.