British journalist, indigenous expert missing in Brazil

·2-min read

A British journalist and a Brazilian indigenous expert have gone missing in a remote region of the Amazon rainforest after receiving threats, The Guardian newspaper and indigenous-rights groups said Monday, raising fears for their safety.

Veteran foreign correspondent Dom Phillips went missing while researching a book in the Brazilian Amazon's Javari Valley with respected indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, said The Guardian, where Phillips has been a longtime freelance contributor.

The pair had traveled by boat to Jaburu lake in the northern state of Amazonas, and were expected to return to the city of Atalaia do Norte by around 9:00 am Sunday, said two rights groups.

The Union of Indigenous Organizations of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA) and the Observatory for the Human Rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples (OPI) said in a statement the men had "received threats in the field the week they disappeared."

The groups did not give further details, but Pereira, an expert at Brazil's indigenous affairs agency FUNAI with deep knowledge of the region, has regularly received threats from loggers and miners trying to invade isolated indigenous groups' land.

FUNAI told AFP it was collaborating with local authorities on the search effort. It added that Pereira was on leave from the agency "to pursue personal interests."

Phillips and Pereira had traveled to interview indigenous inhabitants around a FUNAI monitoring base, and reached Jaburu lake Friday evening, UNIVAJA and OPI said.

They started the return trip early Sunday, stopping in the community of Sao Gabriel, where Pereira had scheduled a meeting with a local leader to discuss indigenous patrols to fight the "intense invasions" that have been taking place on their lands, the groups said.

That was the last time they were seen. When the community leader did not arrive, the men decided to continue to Atalaia do Norte, about a two-hour trip, they said.

The pair were traveling in a new boat with 70 liters of gasoline -- "sufficient for the trip" -- and were using satellite communications equipment, the groups said.

The Guardian said in a statement it was "very concerned" about Phillips, whose work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other leading media.

"We condemn all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers. We are hopeful that Dom and those he was traveling with are safe and will be found soon," it said.


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