British journalist missing in Brazilian Amazon following death threats

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British journalist Dom Phillips is missing, along with his Indigenous protector, in a remote area of the Amazon. Photo courtesy of Government of Brazil.

June 6 (UPI) — Searchers are looking for a British journalist and his Indigenous protector after the pair was reported missing Monday following death threats in a remote area of the Brazilian Amazon.

Dom Phillips, 57, a longtime freelance reporter with more than 14 years of experience covering Brazil for newspapers including The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Guardian, was last seen over the weekend on a boat in the Javari Valley with Bruno Araujo Pereira, a veteran Indigenous rights protector for Brazil’s FUNAI.

Phillips was working on a book about the environment and was traveling with Pereira, who has received numerous death threats for defending Indigenous groups against illegal mining, fishing and logging.

The two men were last seen riding on a boat in the Itui and Itaqui rivers after a multi-day visit with Indigenous communities, according to a statement from the Union of Indigenous Organizations of Javari Valley and the Observatory for Human Rights for Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples.

“It should be noted that Bruno Pereira is an experienced person with a deep knowledge of the region,” read a statement from the two groups. “The two missing men were traveling on a new boat with a 40 horsepower engine, 70 liters of gasoline — enough for the trip — and seven empty drums of fuel.

The pair was expected to return by river to Altalaia do Norte by Sunday morning. A search party was sent out that afternoon when they failed to arrive.

“We need an urgent search mission. We need the police, we need the army, we need firefighters, we need civil defense forces. We have no time to lose,” said Beto Marubo, a prominent Indigenous leader from the region who knows both missing men.

A statement from the Guardian said it “is 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.”

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tweeted: “Phillips interviewed me for The Guardian in 2017. I hope they are fine, safe and will be found quickly.”

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