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British Journalist, Human Rights Advocate Missing in Amazon After Receiving Threats

Dom Phillips, a regular contributor to the Guardian newspaper, and Bruno Araujo Pereira were last seen Sunday morning traveling in the state of Amazonas

Amazon rainforest.
By Andrew Rosati
June 07, 2022 | 10:29 am

Bloomberg — A British journalist and an expert on indigenous peoples have gone missing in the far-west reaches of the Brazilian Amazon after receiving threats, prompting authorities to mount an intensive search by land, air and along the region’s river systems.

Dom Phillips, a regular contributor to The Guardian newspaper, and Bruno Araujo Pereira were last seen Sunday morning traveling in the state of Amazonas, according to a statement from the Unijava association of Indigenous people on the Javari Valley.

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Pereira, who works for the Brazil’s National Indian Foundation, FUNAI, has reportedly received death threats for his activism against illegal mining, poaching and logging.

The two were traveling by boat on the Itaquai River in the Javari Valley, near the triple-border of Brazil, Colombia and Peru. It is a known smuggling route used by drug traffickers.

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“I know the region well, and am aware that various accidents can happen. But I’m worried because of the threats he’s received,” anthropologist Beatriz de Almeida Matos, Pereira’s partner, told Folha de Sao Paulo, one of Brazil’s largest dailies.

News of the pair’s disappearance spread quickly across the nation Monday, with top politicians voicing their concerns.

“I hope they are found soon, that they are safe and well,”  Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who Phillips interviewed in 2017, wrote on Twitter. Lula is leading opinion polls over incumbent Jair Bolsonaro ahead of October presidential election.

Phillips, who has reported on Brazil for nearly 15 years, is currently working on a book about the environment. He and Pereira came to this region of thick rain forests and winding rivers to conduct interviews with local communities about monitoring illegal fishing and hunting operations.

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A veteran of FUNAI, Pereira supervised the region for the agency. But the pair had been threatened during on their reporting trip, Unijava said, without providing further details.

In a statement Unijava said they left the community of Sao Rafael bound for the city of Atalaia do Norte on a trip that should take two hours but never arrived.

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Brazil’s public federal prosecutors’ office said in a statement that it had opened an investigation into the disappearance of the pair with forces including the federal and civil police and navy, which is conducting the search.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Guardian News & Media was quoted in the paper saying it were “very concerned and is urgently seeking information about Mr. Phillips’ whereabouts and condition. We are in contact with the British embassy in Brazil and local and national authorities to try to establish the facts as soon as possible.”