Concern is growing over the whereabouts of Dom Phillips, a highly respected British journalist and former-editor of Mixmag, and Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Araújo Pereira. The men were reported missing earlier this week after travelling to Javari, one of the most remote regions in the Brazilian Amazon.
Having worked for Mixmag in the 1990s, since 2007 Phillips' writing has largely focused on environmental and other issues impacting Brazil's Indigenous communities, frequently reporting for The Guardian, New York Times and Financial Times.
His work has often criticised the country's president, Jair Bolsonaro, whose policies are widely seen as extremely damaging to vital ecosystems and vulnerable communities in the world's largest rainforest. Phillips has regularly exposed and highlighted corruption within the administration and its allies, and the devastating impact of operations like cattle farming, meat processing, and gold mining.
Pereira, a former government employee, specialises in efforts to protect uncontactable tribes in Brazil, many of which are under increasing pressure from industrial and agricultural interests. According to reports, he has frequently received death threats from loggers, most recently within the past week.
The pair had embarked on an expedition to Lago do Jaburu, which the Indigenous group Univaja has confirmed they reached on the evening of Friday 3rd June. They then planned to return by river to Atalaia do Norte, a journey that should take around three hours, but by Sunday the alarm was raised when neither had made it back.
Independent search parties have been organised, with federal police officials in Manaus, capital of the Amazonas state, confirming they are pursuing all lines of enquiry. The organisation Human Rights Watch is "extremely concerned" about the situation, according to a story in The Guardian, which references the 2019 murder of Indigenous protection official Maxciel Pereira dos Santos.
“Under the Bolsonaro government the pressure has increased even more because the invaders felt empowered and became more aggressive," Beto Marubo, a prominent Indigenous leader in the region, who knows both missing parties, told the newspaper, citing "veritable gangs" who are "very violent" and "highly organised" acting on behalf mining and hunting interests, "plundering" forests and rivers "with impunity".
Earlier today, a vigil was held outside the Brazilian embassy in London calling for the safe return of the two men, organised on Facebook by Frank Tope, one of Phillips' friends, who posted: “As the editor of Mixmag throughout the peak 90s clubbing era, Dom Phillips was a pivotal figure in UK dance music, and a friend and mentor to me and all the other young journalists, photographers and designers, not to mention DJs, producers, promoters and so on that he gave a chance to and helped along our various music and media journeys."
Elsewhere, Brazilian football legend Pelé echoed demands for authorities to step up efforts and increase available resources via Twitter.