Editors and journalists from some of the world’s biggest news organizations have written to the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, to ask that he “urgently step up and fully resource the effort” to find missing British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous advocate Bruno Pereira.
Led by the Guardian and the Washington Post, two newspapers for whom Phillips worked as a freelance correspondent, editors from at least 20 major media and press freedom organizations signed the open letter that was published on Thursday.
Other signatories include senior editors from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Folha de S.Paulo, National Public Radio, Bloomberg News, the Associated Press, the Financial Times, the Pulitzer Center, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, ProPublica, The Intercept, Agência Pública de Jornalismo Investigativo, Dagens Nyheter, Mongabay, Stat, Reporters Without Borders, the Wallace House Center for Journalists and the epbr agency.
“We write to express our extreme concern regarding the safety and whereabouts of our colleague and friend Dom Phillips, and Bruno Araújo Pereira, with whom Dom was travelling. Dom is a globally respected journalist with a deep love for Brazilian and its people,” said the letter, which was also addressed to Brazil’s defense and foreign ministers.
“As you will know from numerous press reports, Dom and Bruno have now been missing in the Amazon for more than three days. Their families, friends and colleagues have repeatedly requested assistance from local, state and national authorities and emergency services.
“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.
“We ask that you urgently step up and fully resource the effort to locate Dom and Bruno, and that you provide all possible support to their families and friends.”
The two men were last seen on Sunday morning on the Itaquaí River in the far west of Brazil.
Phillips was working on a book on rainforest development and was accompanied by Pereira, an explorer who has worked with Indigenous tribes in the region for years.
The area where they went traveling is remote and the search effort was slow to get going. In the hours after the two men were reported missing the Brazilian military said it was awaiting orders before launching a search.
By Wednesday, as public pressure mounted amid campaigns by luminaries such as football legend Pelé, singer/songwriter Caetano Veloso and actor Camila Pitanga, officials said they had increased their operation, with 250 people, two planes, three drones and 16 vessels involved in the search.
Police announced they had arrested one man, who sources said had been seen with Phillips and Pereira, but officials said they had not tied him directly to any crime.
At the same time, press organizations united to put pressure on a government that has shown disdain for the media since taking power in 2019.
Brazil’s extremist president has frequently attacked the press, even singling out reporters with insults and abuse.
Bolsonaro even appeared to blame Phillips and Pereira for their own troubles when he called their reporting trip “an adventure that isn’t recommended for anyone”.
in an editorialthe Guardian called on governments and organizations to put pressure on the far-right leader.
“The government is highly unlikely to change course without international pressure,” it said. “That must first be brought to bear to produce an adequate response to this disappearance.”
Full list of signatories to the letter
Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief, Guardian News & Media
Sally Buzbee, executive editor, tI have Washington Post
Dean Baquet, executive editor, tI have New York Times
Sérgio Dávila, editor-in-chief, Folha de S.Paulo
Nancy Barnes, S.higher vice-president of news and editorial dDirector, NPR
John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief, Bloomberg News
Julie Pace, SVP & eexecutive andditor, youhe Associated Press
Juan Forero, South America bureau chief, Wall Street Journal
Marina Walker Guevara, andexecutive andeditor, Pulitzer Center
Rozina Breen, editor-in-chief and CEO, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief, ProPublica
Paul Webster, editor, tI Observer
Jason Ukman, managing editor, Stat
Thiago Domenici, director, Public Agency for Investigative Journalism
Rhett Butler, f.under and CEO, Mongabay
Peter Wolodarski, editor-in-chief, Dagens Nyheter
Roger Hodge, D.eputy editor, youi Intercept
Felipe Maciel, executive director, epbr agency
Phil Chetwynd, g.global news dDirector, AFP
Roula Khalaf, editor, the Financial Times
Emmanuel Colombié, Latin America dDirector, Reporters Without Borders
Lynette Clemetson, dDirector, Wallace House Center for Journalists
Quinn McKew, executive director, Article 19
Jodie Ginsberg, president, Committee to Protect Journalists
Gregory Feifer, andexecutive dDirector, Institute of Current World Affairs
Lindsey Hilsum, Iinternational eeditor, Channel 4 News
Christina Lamb, chief foreign correspondent, Sunday Times
Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Presenter Channel 4 News
Jon Lee Anderson, biographer and staff writer, the New Yorker
Leonardo Sakamoto, director, Reporter Brazil
Nelly Luna Amancio, editor-in-chief, OjoPúblico
Katia Brasil, Executive Director, Amazônia Real
André Petry, editor-in-chief, Piauí Magazine
Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief, The Atlantic