Ongoing search for British journalist, Brazilian expert missing in Amazon

A British journalist and an expert on indigenous affairs has gone missing in a remote part of the Brazilian Amazon region, a local indigenous association said on Monday. The area has been marked by violent conflicts between fishermen, poachers and government employees.

Dom Phillips, a regular contributor to the Guardian, and Bruno Araujo Pereira were last seen at 7 a.m. Sunday local time in the community of Sao Rafael, according to the Univaja association of Vale do Javari indigenous peoples. , where Pereira has served as a consultant.

They were returning by boat from Vale do Javari and bound for the city of Atalaia do Norte, about an hour away, but never showed up.

Pereira, currently on leave from Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, is one of the most experienced employees operating in the Vale do Javari area. He oversaw the agency’s regional office and coordination of isolated Indigenous groups prior to taking leave. He has received numerous threats from illegal fishermen and poachers, and often carries a gun.

Univaja said the couple had been threatened during their current reporting trip.

They disappeared on their return from a two-day trip to Lake Jaburu, where Phillips interviewed local indigenous people, according to Univaja. There were only two men on board, according to the association.

Journalist writes books on rainforest conservation

Phillips is writing a book on Amazon conservation with support from the Alicia Patterson Foundation, which has awarded him a year-long scholarship in environmental reporting that runs through January.

The Itaquai River flows through the Vale do Javari region in the state of Amazonas, Brazil, on the border with Peru. This is the area where the couple went missing. (Fabiano Maisonnave / The Associated Press)

Where they disappeared was the main access route to and from Vale do Javari, where several thousand indigenous people lived in dozens of villages. People in the area say it is highly unlikely that they will get lost in that area.

Margaret Engel, executive director of the Alicia Patterson Foundation, wrote in an email: “He is a cautious journalist, with impressive knowledge of the complexities of Brazil’s environmental crisis. “And he’s a beautiful writer and a lovely person. The best thing about our business.”

In a statement, Brazil’s federal prosecutors said they had opened an investigation and mobilized the Federal Police, the Amazonas state civil police, the national guard and the navy. According to the statement, will then coordinate search efforts. In a separate statement, the navy said it was sending a search and rescue team.

The army’s footprint and manpower is much larger than that of the navies in the region. It has not responded to an Associated Press email seeking comment on progress as of Monday afternoon.

The Guardian quoted a spokesman as saying they were “very concerned and urgently seeking information on the whereabouts and condition of Mr. Phillips. We are in contact with the British Embassy in Brazil and the relevant authorities. local and national authorities to try to verify the facts as soon as possible.”

Phillips, who now lives in Salvador, Bahia, has also contributed to the Washington Post and the New York Times.

“I hope they are found soon, that they are fine and safe,” former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva posted on Twitter, recalling that Phillips interviewed him in 2017.

Volatility zone

The Vale do Javari area has experienced several gunfights between hunters, fishermen and official security officers, who have permanent bases in the area, known for its small indigenous population. largest contact in the world. It is also a major route for cocaine produced on the Peruvian border, then smuggled into Brazil to supply local cities or shipped to Europe.

In September 2019, an employee of the indigenous affairs agency was shot dead in Tabatinga, the largest city in the region. Crime is never solved.

Maria Laura Canineau, director of Human Rights Watch, said: “It is extremely important that the Brazilian authorities devote all available and necessary resources to the immediate conduct of searches, in order to ensure secure the safety of the two men as soon as possible. Brazil, said in a statement on Monday.

Journalists working for regional media outlets in the Amazon have been murdered in recent years, although no such cases have occurred between journalists in national and foreign media. However, there have been some reports of threats and limited media access to some areas dominated by criminal activity including illegal mining, land grabs and drug trafficking.

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