Brazilian authorities search for missing UK journalist, expert

British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were last seen on Sunday in remote Amazon area.

Brazil’s navy has dispatched a crew of 10 people to search for British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, who went missing while reporting in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest near the border with Peru.

Cibelly Lopes, a navy spokesperson in the Brazilian border city of Tabatinga, said on Monday that it should take the navy vessel about three to four hours to reach the isolated base of Atalaia do Norte.

The navy team will then head to the Sao Gabriel riverside community, where the two men were last seen early on Sunday morning. It is unlikely the search party will arrive before nightfall, Lopes said.

Brazil’s federal police said in a statement that they were also working to locate the pair. A senior federal police officer in Tabatinga said on Monday afternoon that there was still no information on their whereabouts or what could have happened.

Colleagues, journalists and others have raised concern about the men’s whereabouts, taking to social media to call for action from the Brazilian authorities. Brazil’s former left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva tweeted that he hoped the pair would soon be found safe.

Phillips is a freelance journalist who has for years written about Brazil for The Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times and other news outlets.

The Itaquai River runs through the Vale do Javari region in Amazonas state, Brazil, on the border with Peru [File: Fabiano Maisonnave/AP Photo]

“The Guardian is very concerned and is urgently seeking information about Mr Phillips’ whereabouts and condition,” a spokesperson for Guardian News & Media said, as reported by the British newspaper.

“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.”

Phillips was on a reporting trip in the Javari Valley with Pereira, considered to be one of Brazil’s most knowledgeable experts on isolated and uncontacted tribes.

The Javari is home to the world’s largest number of uncontacted Indigenous people that inhabit an area the size of Ireland, threatened by illegal miners, loggers, hunters and, increasingly, coca-growing groups that produce the raw material for cocaine.

In a detailed statement about the disappearance of the men, the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA) said that threats had been received in recent days. It was not clear if those threats were to UNIVAJA associates or to Phillips and Pereira.

UNIVAJA said the two men were travelling in a small boat with a 40-horsepower outboard motor, but the area was hard to penetrate due to dense forest and floating plants and vines. Two UNIVAJA search parties had been dispatched to look for them.

A spokesperson for the UK’s foreign office said they were in contact with Brazilian authorities over reports that a British man had gone missing.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called the disappearance “extremely concerning” and urged the Brazilian authorities to “step up” their efforts to find both men.

“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,” Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s programme director in New York, said in a statement.

“Journalists reporting on Indigenous issues are doing critical work, and must be able to do so without fearing for their safety.”

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