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The victims are Mr. Phillips, 57, who had been living in Brazil for more than a decade and was a long-time contributor to the Guardian newspaper, he was in the area researching a book, and Mr. Pereira, 41, who was on leave from his post with the government’s indigenous affairs agency FUNAI, and is an expert on isolated tribes in the Amazon. Mr. Phillips and Mr. Pereira went missing while on a reporting trip in the Javari Valley, in Brazil’s Amazon region on the 5th of June, 2022. Ten days later Mr. Phillips and Mr. Pereira’s disappearance, human remains were found after a suspect confessed to burying their bodies and led police to the spot where the remains were found.
Javari Valley has become known for illegal fishing, mining, logging, and drug-trafficking activities. The region is known for violent conflicts between these various criminal groups, government agents, and indigenous people. These are the specific conflicts that Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira were documenting.
On the 19th of June 2022, an open letter from editors and several organizations was published in support of endeavors to rescue the two journalists:
“As editors and colleagues who have worked with Dom, we are now very concerned by reports from Brazil that search and rescue efforts so far have been minimally resourced, with national authorities slow to offer more than very limited assistance”.
A fisherman named by police as Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, was the first person arrested, his brother, Oseney da Costa, was also arrested earlier this week even if he denies any involvement in the murders, while a third suspect Jeferson da Silva Lima, also known as Pelado da Dinha, turned himself into a police station in the city of Atalaia do Norte, police reports indicate.
On the 19th of June 2022, Brazil‘s President Jair Bolsonaro stated on the matter:
“I take this opportunity (to comment on) this unfortunate case in which the bodies were found. I would like them (Phillips and Dom) to be found alive, but the bodies of the British and the Brazilian were found”.
What happened in Brazil is the consequence of the lack of transparency in some parts of the country, especially in the Amazonian region. These two professionals’ jobs were honourable and valuable, and the Brazilian administration could not defend its work and their safety. Events like this prompt the public opinion to realize that cannot simply move on without seeing meaningful change.
Can international public opinion influence the Brazilian government? Will the death of these journalists be enough to propel change?