Dom Phillips

Veteran foreign correspondent Dom Phillips (center) talks to two indigenous men in Aldeia Maloca Papiu, Roraima State, Brazil, on November 16, 2019. (Photo: Joao Laet/AFP via Getty Images)

'Extremely Concerning': Indigenous Expert, British Journalist Missing in Brazil

"Journalists reporting on Indigenous issues are doing critical work, and must be able to do so without fearing for their safety," asserted one advocate.

Human rights and press freedom defenders on Monday called on the Brazilian government to do everything possible to find an Indigenous activist and a British journalist after the pair went missing in a remote area of the Amazon rainforest just days after receiving threats.

The Guardianreports Bruno Araujo Pereira, a former Brazilian government official tasked with protecting the country's uncontacted tribes, and longtime Guardian contributor Dom Phillips were last seen over the weekend in the Javari region of Amazonas state. According to the British paper, Pereira has long received threats from the loggers and miners seeking to invade and exploit Indigenous lands.

Responding to the news, Greenpeace Brazil tweeted that it is "urgent" that the Brazilian government--including the Ministry of Justice and Federal Police--"mobilize all their resources in the search" for the missing pair.

"The disappearance of British journalist Dom Phillips during a reporting trip in the Brazilian Amazon is extremely concerning, and Brazilian authorities must work to locate him and his traveling companion, Indigenous issues expert Bruno Pereira, immediately," said Committee to Protect Journalists program director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in a statement. "Journalists reporting on Indigenous issues are doing critical work, and must be able to do so without fearing for their safety."

Pereira is a veteran Indigenous rights protector who previously worked for the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), a federal agency. Phillips has reported on the threats posed by illegal miners and cattle ranchers to uncontacted Indigenous peoples in the Javari Valley.

Amazonas Gov. Wilson Lima--who is also a journalist--tweeted that "we are making the state available to support the searches and investigations into the disappearance" of Pereira and Phillips. "We're sending agents to the scene and we'll do what we can to find them."

Violence against Indigenous peoples in Brazil has surged during the administration of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who has called himself "Captain Chainsaw" due to his policies of economic exploitation of the Amazon and other ecosystems.

A series of Bolsonaro-backed bills that critics have dubbed the "package of destruction" is currently advancing in the country's National Congress. If passed and signed into law by the president, they would allow mining on Indigenous lands, relax restrictions on the use of pesticides, and, according to opponents, open the door to even more illegal logging and land seizures.

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