Fears mount for safety of journalist and Brazilian indigenous expert missing in the Amazon

Environmental activists and journalist groups urge authorities to start immediate search

Fears are growing for the safety of a British journalist and a Brazilian indigenous expert who have gone missing in the Amazon rainforest while travelling after the two men received threats.

Dom Phillips and Bruno Araújo Pereira were reported missing on Sunday while visiting remote indigenous communities in the Javari region of Amazonas state, near Brazil’s frontier with Peru.

According to a statement by local indigenous rights group Univaja the two were last seen leaving the village of Ribeirinha São Rafael early on Sunday morning heading for the town of Atalaia do Norte. The journey should have lasted two hours but there has been no contact with them since.

A search party set out from Atalaia do Norte at 2pm local time on Sunday after the duo failed to arrive. The search covered the stretch of river the men were to take back down to Ribeirinha São Rafael but found no sign of them or their boat.


Araújo Pereira is a renowned and experienced expert on the remote Amazon and Phillips has travelled with him before in the region. Univaja said unspecified threats had been made against them last week, the latest in a series targeting the organisation’s staff which they registered with Brazil’s federal police and prosecution service.

Amazonian communities

An official with the indigenous affairs agency of Brazil’s federal government Araújo Pereira is an expert in uncontacted Amazonian communities. Because of his work defending indigenous territory from encroachment by miners and loggers he has received many death threats during his career.

Mr Phillips is from Merseyside originally and has been based in Brazil since 2007. He writes for several newspapers including the Washington Post and Guardian and is researching a book on the Amazon with support from the Alicia Patterson Foundation.

Brazilian environmental activists and journalist organisations are demanding that authorities undertake immediate efforts to locate them. According to human rights organisation Global Witness Brazil is the fourth deadliest country worldwide for environmental activists after Colombia, Mexico and the Philippines.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America