RSF denounces Brazil’s slow investigation into Dom Phillips’ murder one year ago

On the first anniversary of British journalist Dom Phillips’ death – which is also World Environment Day – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for concrete responses from the Brazilian authorities to his murder while he was investigating environmental issues in the Brazilian Amazon with Bruno Pereira, a Brazilian specialist in Indigenous communities who was also murdered.

Phillips and Pereira went missing on 5 June 2022, while travelling down the Itacoaí River on the edge of the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory in Brazil’s Amazonas state. Their dismembered and partially burned bodies were found hidden in the rainforest ten days later.

The federal police quickly named suspected perpetrators and a suspected instigator. But none of these suspects has so far been brought to trial and convicted, and the judicial proceedings have been marked by their slowness. 

The proceedings even took a step backwards on 16 May when – at the request of lawyers representing those accused of aggravated homicide, concealing bodies and criminal association for the purpose of illegal fishing – the Federal Regional Court (TRF1) ordered the case’s return to an earlier “investigating” phase in order to question new witnesses.

“Journalism plays an essential role in the defence of the environment but, in the Brazilian Amazon, local journalists work in conditions of extreme danger. Full justice must be done in the case of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira. A speedy resolution of the case would send a clear signal that there will be no impunity for those who continue to illegally exploit the region's resources, and that local journalists can count on the judicial system’s support for their work of informing Brazilian society and the world about the environmental crimes committed in the Amazon.

Artur Romeu
Director of RSF’s Latin America bureau

The Amazonian Press Freedom Violations Observatory, which was launched by RSF, has recorded 62 cases of violence against journalists, reporting crews and media in the past year. More than half of these attacks were carried out by far-right demonstrators, organised crime, or persons working for mining, prospecting, agro-industry or tourism companies.

The Brazilian state’s responses to the extremely dangerous environment for journalists working in the Amazon are as insufficient as the judicial system’s responses to Dom Phillips’ murder.

A society that does not guarantee free and safe conditions for journalism, for the defence of fundamental rights and for the defence of its Indigenous peoples is condemned, by denying its past, to failure in the construction of its future.

Together with eight of its partners in Brazil – Article 19, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI), the Online Journalism Association (AJOR), the National Federation of Journalists (FENAJ), the Vladimir Herzog Institute, the Palavra Aberta Institute, the Association of Educational Journalists (JEDUCA) and Tornavoz – RSF will hold a press conference on 5 June in São Paulo to pay tribute to Phillips and Pereira and call on the Brazilian authorities to bring those responsible for their murders to justice as swiftly as possible.

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