Dom Phillips, British correspondent in Brazil, dies at 57 – Reuters

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Dom Phillips, a British journalist based in Brazil who had written for the Washington Post, the Guardian and other media and was a leading columnist on the devastating environmental effects of deforestation in the Amazon, died in the remote Javari Valley of western Brazil. , where he was looking for a book. He was 57 years old.

According to media reports, he and Bruno Araújo Pereira, an expert on indigenous peoples in the country, were traveling by boat on the Itaquaí River in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, known in recent years for increasing violence from illegal fishermen, loggers and drug traffickers. Both men were last seen alive on June 5.

Police announced on Friday that human remains recovered from a remote forest belonged to Phillips. A fisherman this week confessed to killing the journalist and his traveling companion, police said, and took investigators to a remote location where the remains were buried.

Authorities said on Saturday that another set of human remains belonged to Pereira. Both were shot, they said. At least three men are arrested.

Mr. Phillips, a former music journalist in England, has lived in Brazil since 2007. He learned Portuguese and married a Brazilian woman and lived in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and, more recently, Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia. .

Bruno Pereira, expert on indigenous communities in Brazil, has died aged 41

He was a versatile journalist who wrote about politics, poverty and cultural developments in Brazil. As a contributor to The Post from 2014 to 2016, he covered the country’s preparations for the Soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. He then examined whether the Games had conferred a sustainability advantage on Rio de Janeiro.

“Three months after the successful staging of the Summer Olympics, Brazil’s cultural hub is about to take off,” he wrote in The Post. “Instead, it’s a financial, political and criminal mess. »

Mr. Phillips was particularly drawn to the plight of Brazil’s natural world and the indigenous peoples who live deep in the Amazon rainforest. He traveled across the country to report on deforestation as ranchers and other commercial interests destroyed large swaths of Brazil’s rainforests. He led the Guardian’s research of large cattle ranches established on deforested land.

“Dom is one of the most ethical and courageous journalists I know,” Andrew Fishman, an American journalist working in Brazil, told the Latin American news service CE Noticias Financieras. “He was always extremely rigorous in his work and incisive in his analyses. »

In 2019, Phillips asked President Jair Bolsonaro about deforestation in the countryside. Bolsonaro, who is in favor of mining and other ventures, responded: “First, you have to understand that the Amazon belongs to Brazil, not you.”

A video of the exchange caused an uproar among Bolsonaro supporters, who used it to promote their view that the president was being attacked by the media.

“Dom was really shaken up by this video,” Fishman said. “He felt it put a target on his back and made his job harder. »

In 2018, Phillips joined Pereira and photographer Gary Calton on a 17-day trip to the Amazon — nearly 600 miles by boat and a 45-mile hike on foot — as Pereira, then a government official, tried to make contact with uncontacted indigenous people. groups.

“As he crouches in the mud by a fire,” Phillips wrote in an evocative story for the Guardian, “Bruno Pereira, an employee of the Brazilian government’s indigenous agency, cuts open a boiled monkey skull with a spoon and eats its brains for breakfast while he discusses politics.

Mr. Phillips dubbed some of the people he met “the ninjas of this forest, [who] they are as protective as they are at home. They fish for piranhas and hunt, kill and cook birds, monkeys, sloths and wild boar to eat them.

When asked a local resident whether agricultural development and mining should be allowed in indigenous territories, he replied: “No. We take care of our land.

Mr. Phillips returned to Vale do Javari several times to carry out research for a book tentatively entitled “How to Save the Amazon”. He received a grant from the Alicia Patterson Foundation to help fund his reporting.

In recent years, the region has become increasingly dangerous, with more than 150 environmental activists killed in Brazil between 2009 and 2020, according to the Latin American Journalism Project. Land of Resistance.

After Phillips and Pereira failed to attend a meeting scheduled for June 5, Aboriginal people reported that a boat was following them.

Phillips’ wife, Alessandra Sampaio, called on the Brazilian government to act quickly to find her husband and Pereira. Brazilian celebrities, including soccer star Pele, joined the public appeal. The media – such as The Post, The Guardian and The New York Times, for which Phillips had written – published an open letter demanding that the Brazilian government “urgently step up and fully fund its efforts” to find men.

When Bolsonaro was informed of his disappearance, he seemed to suggest they were to blame.

“Anything can happen,” he said. “It could have been an accident. They could have been executed. »

After the discovery of his remains, Bolsonaro said: “This Englishman was hated in the region. … He should have more than redoubled the precautions he was taking. And he decided to go on a tour instead.

The declaration caused an uproar in Brazil and abroad.

“Victims are not to blame,” one of Bolsonaro’s political opponents, Orlando Silva, said in a tweet.

Dominic Mark Phillips was born on July 23, 1964 in Bebington, a town near Liverpool in the Merseyside region of North West England. He left college to travel in the 1980s and lived in Israel, Greece, Denmark and Australia doing odd jobs including picking fruit, working as a chef and cleaning a meat factory.

He became a devotee of a form of electronic dance music called house, and in the late 1980s he helped found an art magazine in Bristol, England. He moved to London in 1990 and worked as an editor at Mixmag, a house music chronicle magazine. He coined the term “progressive house” to describe “a new generation of rough but melodious, hard-hitting yet reflective, uplifting and trancey British house”.

He left the publication in 1999 to produce documentaries and music videos. In 2009, he published ‘DJ Superstars, let’s go!’, a book described in a Guardian review as ‘in part a memory of his club days and after-parties awash in champagne, vodka, cocaine and ecstasy’.

Phillips first visited Brazil in 1998. After settling there nine years later, he largely abandoned his nightlife habits and often got up before dawn to practice stand-up paddleboarding on the waterways.

“On the one hand, it’s like being in Europe or America,” he said in a 2008 interview with DMCWorld, a music publication. “On the other hand, it’s completely different – ​​like stepping into a world of glass where everything looks the same, but it’s actually upside down, upside down, upside down, whatever. … The best thing about this country is the people – they are really open, friendly and positive. They love music. Rich or poor, they do their best to make the most of life.

In addition to his wife, the survivors include a sister and brother.

Phillips turned down several high-profile job offers, preferring to stay in Brazil as a freelance writer, contributing to the Financial Times, Bloomberg News and football magazines. He was well known to international journalists and taught English and volunteered in poor neighborhoods.

“He likes to see the impact of his work on people’s lives,” Cecília Olliveira, founder of Fogo Cruzado, a website that documents violence in Brazil, told CE Noticias Financieras. “He likes to do journalism that changes something, that exposes abuses, that helps protect those who need protection. »

Terrence McCoy in Brazil contributed to this report.

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