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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Constance Malleret in Rio de Janeiro

‘Journalism mustn’t be silenced’: colleagues to complete slain reporter’s book

Guaraní people and human rights activists attend a vigil in São Paulo, Brazil, on 23 June 2022 for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira.
Guaraní people and human rights activists attend a vigil in São Paulo, Brazil, on 23 June 2022 for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira. Photograph: André Penner/AP

One year after Dom Phillips was killed in the Brazilian Amazon, friends and colleagues have come together in a show of journalistic solidarity to keep his legacy alive and finish the book the British journalist was working on at the time of his death.

Phillips and his Brazilian companion, the Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, were killed while returning from the remote Javari valley in the western Amazon last June. Three men have been charged with murder and are being held in high-security prisons while awaiting a decision on whether they will face trial.

Phillips, a respected correspondent and longtime Guardian collaborator, had been working on a book called How to Save the Amazon: Ask the People Who Know. His fatal expedition last year to interview Indigenous defenders fighting criminal activity in the Javari valley was to have been one of his final reporting trips.

In a tribute to the deep admiration Phillips elicited as both a person and journalist, his friends and colleagues are now striving to ensure that his work telling the stories of Amazon defenders does not die with him.

His widow, Alessandra Sampaio, asked a group of writers from Brazil, the US and the UK to finish the book Phillips started, which he had pitched as a “character-driven, deeply researched, campaigning, environmental travel book that aims to entertain, inform and, most importantly, mobilise readers” about the fate of the Amazon.

“Amid the horror that followed the news of Bruno and Dom’s death, we wanted to focus on something positive, and the most important thing we could think of was to complete the work that Dom had started,” said Jonathan Watts, one of the journalists coordinating the book’s route to publication. “Good journalism mustn’t be silenced.”

As well as Watts, who is global environment writer for the Guardian and co-founder of the Amazon-based news site Sumaúma, the team of experienced Amazon writers includes Eliane Brum (author and co-founder of Sumaúma), Tom Phillips (Latin America correspondent for the Guardian), Jon Lee Anderson (staff writer for the New Yorker), Katia Brasil (founder of Amazônia Real) and Andrew Fishman (president and co-founder of the Intercept Brasil).

They will carry out trips retracing Phillips’ steps to write the book’s remaining chapters, working with the partly completed manuscript and Phillips’ extensive notes and research.

“Dom was murdered while telling the story of Amazon defenders getting killed. Leaving his book unfinished would mean letting the destroyers of the Amazon win without a fight. It would be a disservice to his legacy and everything we believe in as journalists,” said Fishman.

A number of other journalists who knew and admired Phillips have offered to help with proofreading and factchecking.

The team of writers secured initial funds to start the project and has now partnered with Phillips’ family to raise a final £16,000 to pay for reporting trips to the Amazon and other work needed to complete the manuscript, they said in a statement.

“The book is particularly important right now because the Amazon is a battleground of ideas within Brazil and at the centre of many of the big disputes that are threatening the new government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva,” said Watts.

Phillips’ sister, Sian Phillips, said the project was not only a lasting tribute to her brother’s life’s work, but also a crucially important resource to continue raising awareness about the threats facing the Amazon rainforest and the Indigenous people who protect it.

“If Dom and Bruno had not been murdered, the book would have been important for the conservation of the Amazon. But now, due to the international outcry after the murders, the potential of the book is greater because many more people will read it,” she said.

“It’s a great responsibility on my family, on Dom’s family and friends, to ensure that the book is finished.”

- If you want to help finish Dom Phillips’ book on the Amazon you can contribute here.

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