Fear of missing British journalist in Amazon

Veteran foreign correspondent Dom Phillips. (Photo: Joao Laet/AFP)

  • A freelance veteran journalist and a respected indigenous specialist were last seen traveling by boat in the Amazon on Sunday.
  • They went missing after receiving threats.
  • The army has launched a search and the authorities are investigating.

The Brazilian government on Tuesday vowed to do everything it could to locate a British journalist and Brazilian indigenous expert who disappeared deep into the Amazon after receiving threats as distraught relatives warned that every minute counts.

Veteran freelance journalist Dom Phillips, 57, and respected indigenous specialist Bruno Pereira, 41, were last seen Sunday by boat in the remote Javari Valley, an indigenous reserve near Brazil’s border with Peru, where Phillips was doing research for a book.

They were expected to return to the small town of Atalaia do Norte around 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, but never arrived, prompting authorities to open an investigation and the army to launch a search operation.

The Brazilian government expressed its “grave concern” in a statement.

“The federal police were mobilized immediately and are taking all possible measures to find (the men) as soon as possible,” it said.

The Brazilian government will continue to support the search with the urgency required by the case… If the disappearance is found to be the result of criminal activity, all steps will be taken to bring those responsible to justice.

Investigators took two people for questioning on Monday, who are believed to be among the last to have had contact with the missing men, police said in a statement.

Neither of them were detained, it said.

Indigenous human rights groups working in the area say the men were threatened last week.

Pereira, an expert currently on leave from Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs Office, FUNAI, which knows the region well, has regularly received threats from poachers, loggers and miners attempting to invade the lands of isolated indigenous groups.

When the 48-hour limit passed with no news, the families of the men urged authorities to act quickly.

“Time is a key factor in rescue operations, especially when they are injured,” Pereira’s family said in a statement.

It said his partner, three children and other family members were in “anxiety”.

Phillips’ sister Sian posted a video message online and fought back tears.

“We are very concerned about him and urge authorities in Brazil to make every effort to investigate the route he was following,” she said.

“Every minute counts.”

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