British journalist Dom Phillips travels to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil with an expert to interview indigenous groups for a book. But the two men never return from their trip. Both are said to have received threats beforehand.
A British journalist and a Brazilian indigenous affairs expert have gone missing in a remote region of Brazil's Amazon rainforest. The Guardian reported Monday that 57-year-old freelance correspondent Dom Phillips was researching a book about violence against tribal people in the Javari Valley with expert Bruno Pereira when they disappeared. According to the indigenous organization, the men had previously been threatened.
Pereira, who works for the government agency for indigenous affairs (Funai), regularly receives threats from illegal loggers and miners trying to trespass on the lands of isolated indigenous groups. Phillips and Pereira intended to interview tribal people near a Funai observation station and arrived at Jaburu Lake on Friday evening.
They began their return journey early Sunday morning, stopping in the municipality of Sao Rafael, where Pereira had scheduled a meeting with a local representative to discuss the "invasion" on her land. When the community leader failed to show up, the two men set off towards Atalaia do Norte, a drive of about two hours. They were in a new boat with enough gas and a satellite phone.
Federal prosecutors said they launched a police investigation and search when the men failed to arrive in Atalaia do Norte at the expected time on Sunday. According to the newspaper "O Globo", the federal police arrested two fishermen on Monday night, including the person with whom the men were supposed to meet.
Relatives and former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called on the authorities to do "everything" to find the missing people. Lula is the favorite in October's presidential election against incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. This is accused of doing nothing against illegal logging and mining in the Amazon region.
Phillips is a freelance journalist based in Salvador, northeastern Brazil. He had already traveled to the Javari Valley with Pereira in 2018 for a report for the "Guardian". This is a difficult-to-reach area in the southwestern state of Amazonas. According to the non-governmental organization Instituto Socioambiental, around 6,300 indigenous people from 26 different groups live there, 19 of them incommunicado.
In recent years, violence has escalated in the region due to the presence of illegal miners, hunters and fishermen. The local Funai base, set up to protect and support the indigenous people, has come under multiple attacks since late 2018, including the shooting of an employee in 2019.