A British journalist and an official belonging to an indigenous affairs agency are missing in Brazil’s Amazon. Authorities have expanded search efforts in the area, where violent conflicts between poachers, fishermen, and government agents have been reported.
The Vale do Javari Indigenous territory’s Univaja association of people report that Dom Phillips, who has regularly been writing for the British newspaper The Guardian, and Bruno Araújo Pereira were last spotted in the Sao Rafael community.
The missing pair were returning by boat from the Vale do Javari and were to go to Atalaia do Norte, but they never arrived at their destination. Pereira is a senior employee at the Brazilian indigenous affairs agency working in the Vale do Javari area. Before taking a leave of absence, he oversaw the agency’s regional office and coordinated isolated Indigenous groups. He usually carries a gun when he travels to remote areas to investigate illegal fishing and poaching.
Univaja stated that Phillips and Pereira were threatened during their reporting trip. Paulo Marubo, the association’s president, told The Associated Press that while they were camped out, two men journeyed by the river to the Indigenous territory’s boundary and waved a firearm at a Unijava patrol.
An unlikely disappearance
Phillips, a reporter who has been based in Brazil for more than a decade, received a yearlong fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation for environmental reporting, which ran through January. Univaja said that the two men disappeared after arriving from their two-day trip to interview local Indigenous people in the Jaburu Lake region.
The place of their disappearance is the key access route to and from Brazil’s Vale do Javari Indigenous territory, home to several thousand Indigenous people scattered across dozens of villages. According to area residents, it is unlikely that the men would have gone missing in that sector. In an email, Margaret Engel, the Alicia Patterson Foundation’s executive director, wrote, “He is a cautious journalist with impressive knowledge of the complexities of the Brazilian environmental crisis. And he is a beautiful writer and a lovely person. The best of our business.”
Through a friend, Phillips’ wife Alessandra Sampaio, shared a series of messages on Twitter. “I can only pray that Dom and Bruno are well, somewhere, prevented from continuing on for some mechanical reason and that all of this becomes just one more story in a life replete with them. I know, however, the moment the Amazon is going through, and I know the risks that Dom always denounced,” she said.