Editors and reporters from some of the world’s biggest news agencies have written to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro asking him to “urgently intensify and fully mobilize efforts” to find British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous lawyer Bruno Pereira.
Led by the Guardian and the Washington Post, two newspapers for which Phillips worked as a freelance correspondent, editors from at least 20 major media outlets and press freedom organizations signed the open letter which was published Thursday.
Other signatories include editors of The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Folha de S. Paulo, National Public Radio, Bloomberg News, Associated Press, Financial Times, Pulitzer Center, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, ProPublica, Intercept, Agência Pública de Journalismo Investigativo, Dagens Nyheter, Mongabay, Stat, Reporters Without Borders, the Wallace House Center for Journalists and the epbr agency.
“We are writing to express our extreme concern for the safety and whereabouts of our colleague and friend Dom Phillips, and Bruno Araújo Pereira, with whom Dom was traveling. Dom is a globally respected journalist with a deep love for Brazil and its people,” reads the letter, which was also addressed to Brazil’s defense and foreign ministers.
“As you know from numerous press reports, Dom and Bruno have now been missing in the Amazon for over 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 have so far been minimally resourced, with national authorities slow to offer more than very limited assistance.
“We ask that you urgently intensify and provide full efforts to locate Dom and Bruno, and 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 about the development of the rainforest and was accompanied by Pereira, an explorer who has worked with indigenous tribes in the area for years.
The area where they went to travel is remote and search efforts have been slow to get started. In the hours following the disappearance of the two men, the Brazilian army said it was awaiting orders before launching a search.
On Wednesday, as public pressure mounted amid campaigns by luminaries such as soccer legend Pele, singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso and actor Camila Pitanga, officials said they had stepped up operations, with 250 people, two planes, three drones and 16 ships involved in the search.
Police said they had arrested a man, who sources said had been seen with Phillips and Pereira, but officials said they did not directly link him to any crime.
At the same time, news outlets have united to pressure a government that has scorned the media since coming to power in 2019.
Brazil’s extremist president has frequently attacked the press, even pointing the finger at journalists 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 is not recommendable for anyone”.
In an editorial, the Guardian called on governments and organizations to put pressure on the far-right leader.
“The government is very unlikely to change course without international pressure,” he said. “This must first be implemented to produce an adequate response to this disappearance.”
Full list of letter signatories
Katharine Viner, Editor, Guardian News & Media
Sally Buzbee, editor, tthe washington post
Dean Baquet, editor, tthe New York Times
Sérgio Dávila, editor-in-chief, Folha de S. Paulo
Nancy Barnes, supper vice-president of news and eeditorial dDirector, RNP
John Micklethwait, Editor, Bloomberg News
Julie Pace, SVP & eexecutive andeditorthe Associated Press
John Forerunner, South America bureau chief, Wall Street Journal
Marina Walker Guevara, andexecutive andeditor, Pulitzer Center
Rozina Breen, Editor and CEO, Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Stephen Engelberg, Editor, ProPublica
Paul Webster, publisher, the observer
Jason Ukman, Editor, Stat
Thiago Domenici, Director, Public Agency for Investigative Journalism
Rhett Butler, fFounder and CEO, Mongabay
Peter Wolodarski, Editor-in-Chief, Dagens Nyheter
Roger Hodge, d.deputyeditorhe intercepts
Felipe Maciel, executive director, epbr agency
Phil Chetwynd, boverall news dDirector, AFP
Roula Khalaf, editor of 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, Chair, Committee to Protect Journalists
Gregory Feifer, a.executive ofDirector, Institute of Current Global Affairs
Lindsey Hilsum, Iinternationaleditor, Channel 4 News
Christina Lamb, Chief Foreign Correspondent, Sunday Times
Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Channel 4 News presenter
Jon Lee Anderson, biographer and New Yorker writer
Leonardo Sakamoto, director, Reporter Brasil
Nelly Luna Amancio, Editor-in-Chief, OjoPúblico
Katia Brasil, Executive Director, Amazônia Real
André Petry, editor-in-chief, Revista Piauí
Jeffrey Goldberg, Editor, The Atlantic