Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, who reported extensively on the violent nature of drug trafficking, was killed on Monday in Sinaloa, officials said. He is the fifth journalist to be killed in Mexico just this year.
Riodoce, the weekly publication Valdez founded and worked for, reported he was shot to death. Valdez was a well-respected journalist in Sinaloa and published several books on drug trafficking, crime, and its effects on communities.
Javier Valdez Cardenas, who won the Committee to Protect Journalists’ international press freedom award in 2011, died when gunmen opened fire on his car around noon.
Mr Valdez, 50, was born, lived and died in the city of Culiacan. The state of Sinaloa is the base of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel, and has seen a surge in violence since his arrest, as rival members of his gang vie to wrestle control.
Speaking Monday at the crime scene in Culiacán, Sinaloa state Prosecutor Juan José Ríos Estavillo vowed his department would provide more protection for journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 40 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 1992.
Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted out his condolences to the family and friends of Valdez. “I reiterate our commitment to freedom of expression and the press, which are fundamental to our democracy,” Nieto said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists awarded Valdez the 2011 Press Freedom Award. “In a country where widespread self-censorship is the consequence of violence by drug syndicates and criminal gangs, Valdez still covers sensitive issues,” CPJ wrote in its announcement of the award.
In September 2009, Riodoce published a series on drug trafficking. Days later, its offices were damaged by a grenade, according to CPJ.
In his acceptance speech in New York in 2011, Valdez spoke about the message in two of his books, “Miss Narco” and “The Kids of the Drug Trade,” “I have told of the tragedy Mexico is living, a tragedy that should shame us. The youth will remember this as a time of war. Their DNA is tattooed with bullets and guns and blood, and this is a form of killing tomorrow. We are murderers of our own future.”
Valdez was also a correspondent for La Jornada in Sinaloa and worked with news agency AFP.
“We lament this tragedy and send all condolences to Javier’s family and those close to him. We call on the Mexican authorities to shed all possible light on this cowardly murder,” AFP’s Global news director, Michèle Léridon, said in an official statement.
In an interview with CNN in February 2013, Valdez told CNN’s Gary Tuchman he thought Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman was not only alive, but continuing to do business.
At the time of the interview, Riodoce was one of the only papers that continued to cover El Chapo and the Sinaloa cartel. Valdez told Tuchman that his staff lived in fear, but his paper would not back down on its coverage.