Environmental Journalist and Indigenous Expert Still Missing in Brazilian Amazon After Allegedly Receiving Threats

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Jun. 8 2022, Published 4:49 p.m. ET

Man missing in Brazil
Source: domphillips/Twitter, AFP Português/YouTube

Missing journalist Dom Phillips, and a still of his wife Alessandra Sampaio from a video she posted urging officials to "intensify the search" for her husband.

Over the weekend, two men were reported missing in Brazil: British environmental journalist Dom Phillips, and expert on Indigenous groups Bruno Araújo Pereira. In the days following their disappearance, several concerning details have emerged, leaving many deeply concerned about their whereabouts and safety.

Here’s what we know so far about the situation.

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Two are men missing in Brazil.

As reported by The New York Times, Phillips and Pereira were last spotted on Sunday morning, while traveling together along the Amazon Basin’s Itaquaí River by boat.

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According to CBS News, the nonprofit Univaja, which Pereira has worked with, announced this news via Facebook on Monday. According to the organization, the two men were the only ones on the boat, and were expected to arrive in Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas within hours of departing the Vale do Javari.

When they did not make it to their destination by 6 a.m. as expected, locals grew worried, and at around 2 p.m., authorities sent out a search party, as per Univaja.

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Though there is still no sign of Phillips and Pereira as of publication, Brazilian police arrested a suspect in the case on Wednesday, The Guardian reported. According to the news outlet, the police stated that his name is Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, but goes by the name “Pelado.”

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Additionally, there were reports that the day before the two men disappeared, the suspect threatened Phillips, Pereira, and a group of 13 Indigenous people, as per The Guardian. And last week, a fisherman reportedly threatened Pereira via a letter, BBC News added.

Authorities reportedly have four witnesses in custody, at least one of whom has already corroborated the story that Pelado, along with two other armed people, threatened the group of 15 on Saturday.

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Many notable people have gotten involved in publicly amplifying the search for Phillips and Pereira, as per The Guardian, including John Kerry, who stated he would help investigate this case; David Lammy, the U.K.’s Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs; and Sônia Guajajara, an Indigenous activist and leader.

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Who are Dom Phillips and Bruno Araújo Pereira?

Dom Phillips, 57, is a British freelance journalist, with writing credits for outlets including The Guardian, The New York Times, The Financial Times, and The Washington Post. According to Phillips’ Twitter, he lives in Salvador, Brazil, and has previously lived in the Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. He has lived in the country for about 15 years, as per The New York Times.

Many of Dom Phillips’ articles on The Guardian address environmental issues, especially those related to the Amazon, such as Amazon fires, animal farming. and deforestation.

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On Wednesday, Phillips’ wife Alessandra Sampaio posted a video of herself crying, begging authorities to keep looking for her husband, as reported by BBC News. “Even if I don’t find the love of my life alive, they have to be found. Please intensify the search,” she tearfully said in the video in Portuguese.

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Bruno Araújo Pereira, 41 is an expert on isolated Indigenous tribes who live in the Amazon, and an employee of the governmental Brazilian Indigenous National Foundation (FUNAI), though he is currently on leave, according to BBC News. The news outlet added that Pereira has been known to fight with some Amazonian communities regarding illegal fishing practices, which could potentially explain why a fisherman reportedly threatened Pereira last week.

According to CNN, the two men are jointly doing research for a book about conservation efforts in the Amazon. Hopefully the search will end successfully, and the two men will be found safe and sound.

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