The Bruno and Dom project

The Guardian

Killing the journalist must not be allowed to kill the story. That was the driving motive behind the Guardian’s Bruno and Dom Project, the most comprehensive investigation of crime and destruction in the Amazon rainforest ever undertaken by an English-language newspaper.

The Guardian initiated the year-long project after the murders of Bruno Araújo Pereira, a renowned defender of the rights of Brazil’s Indigenous peoples, and Dom Phillips, an outstanding reporter, long-term Guardian contributor and friend to many at the newspaper. The two were killed on 5 June 2022 in the Javari Valley, a remote region of Amazonas state, while looking into reports that organised crime groups were threatening rainforest defenders.

More than 50 journalists from 16 news organisations in 10 countries collaborated on this project, coordinated by Forbidden Stories. Together they published 57 deeply researched reports.

The Guardian’s 14-story series started with a spectacular front-page splash from the Javari Valley on continued threats to forest defenders, and the alleged killers’ links to organised crime groups operating on the nearby Peruvian border.

The following day, the Guardian broke new ground with an exposé of the multinational companies that have industrialised the Amazon and how much they have profited from rainforest destruction. Three researchers and four journalists spent six months assembling the database on which this investigation was based. More than a dozen corporations were held to account and asked for the first time whether they should contribute more to protect this globally important ecosystem.

Rounding off the series was an exploration of the possible solutions being pioneered in the Amazon, which have implications for consumers in Britain and other overseas markets. This forward-looking overview was researched and written in the frontier community of Altamira where the Guardian - uniquely among foreign media - employs a staff columnist as part of its world-leading coverage of the environment, climate and indigenous rights.

In addition, the Guardian published groundbreaking investigations of the Amazonian beef industry, infrastructure projects and illegal fishing gangs, plus interactive graphics to illustrate the scale of deforestation, opinion pieces by an indigenous leader and Phillips’ widow, a photo essay, news of the campaign to complete the book Phillips was working on when he died, a UK exclusive of the last images of the two murdered men from a recovered cellphone, and comments from Brazil President Lula da Silva.

This project was deeply personal to many of those involved who wanted a fitting homage to a fallen friend and colleague. It recognised the vital role the Amazon plays in global climate regulation and amplified the sacrifices made by the hundreds of environmental defenders (and sometimes the journalists who cover them) killed on the frontline of the global war against nature. As Guardian editor Katharine Viner told readers: “We hope you will read, reflect on and share the Bruno and Dom project, with the spirit of defiance that has inspired it. The work must go on.”

In October 2023 a judge ruled that three suspects in the murders will face trial by jury.