Yet another journalist was murdered in Mexico Monday, marking the sixth assassination of a reporter so far this year in one of the deadliest countries in the world for media workers.
Javier Valdez, a correspondent covering the drug-related violence and crime beat in the state of Sinaloa for Mexico's largest daily newspaper, La Jornada, was shot dead around midday in Sinaloa's capital of Culiacan, home base for the notorious Sinaloa cartel previously run by jailed drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
Valdez had released a new book just last year titled, "Narco Journalism." The reporter was shot in the street, the Red Cross reported, where his body was left after the fatal shooting.
The country's national commission for human rights condemned the killing in a statement issued later in the day, saying it was “affecting freedom of expression, and the heart of Mexican democracy.”
The commission sent representatives to Sinaloa and asked federal, regional and local authorities to open an exhaustive investigation “so this crime won't remain unpunished.” It also blamed authorities for failing to implement preventive mechanisms that would avoid killings of reporters in the country.
In an interview with teleSUR last year, Valdez explained that the book was an account of the largely overlooked and complicated relationship between the media and drug-trafficking in Mexico where journalists can be victims, but also accomplices of drug-trafficking in many cases.
Sometimes, said Valdez, reporters have no choice but to become the eyes and ears of drug-traffickers in the newsroom because they face death threats. Others, however, get paid and inform on colleagues, becoming accomplices in the forced disappearances or killing of other journalists.
In some regions like in Tamaulipas, drug-traffickers impose the editorial line on the media, with journalists forced to basically report "the silence," without reflecting the reality of the streets.
Asked about the danger of his profession, Valdes Cardenas said his best response was to keep writing. “I think if we put people at the center of our stories, we can humanize all these deaths, restore some dignity so that people can shout out, protest at what is happening, not give in to the killing, but play a more aware and dignified role,” he said.
The killing comes just a day after 100 armed assailants suspected of being associated with the Michoacana family cartel attacked and robbed seven national and international journalists covering a security operation in the state of Guerrero, on the highway leading to Iguala, the town made famous by the disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college in 2014.
The other five journalists killed this year are Filiberto Alvarez, who was killed in Tlaquiltenango on May 2; Cecilio Pineda Brito, killed in Guerrero on March 2; Ricardo Monlui, killed in Veracruz on March 19; Miroslava Breach, who was shot dead in Chihuahua on March 23; and Max Rodriguez Palacios, murdered in Baja California Sur on April 14.
According to a recent report by Article 19, the press freedom organization, 2016 was the most deadly year for the press in Mexico in the past decade with 11 journalists murdered and more than 400 attacks on media workers. The organization also found that perpetrators of these crimes get away with the murders 99.7 percent of the time.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 39 journalists have been killed since 1992, though other estimates are much higher.