This year is proving to be one of the worst in memory for Mexican journalists.
On Monday, Javier Valdez Cardenas became the sixth journalist murdered in the country since the beginning of the year. The Sinaloa state correspondent for the national La Jornada daily, Valdez was shot to death in the state capital of Culiacan, a city widely regarded as a stronghold of organized crime groups.
No immediate arrests in the homicide were announced by authorities.
Valdez was the second state correspondent for La Jornada murdered this year. Miroslava Breach, the longtime Chihuahua correspondent for La Jornada, was fatally shot by a gunman outside her Chihuahua City home on March 23 while she prepared to take her son to school. Despite state government statements that the authors of the crime have been identified, no one has been arrested and charged in the case.
On the same day Valdez was slain, another demonstration demanding justice for Breach was held in Chihuahua City.
Like Breach, Valdez dug deep into delicate matters including narco-trafficking and political corruption.
An award-winning journalist, the 50-year-old Valdez was the author of a recent book entitled “Narcojournalism.” He was a founder of Riodoce magazine, a publication known for its investigative reports on organized crime. According to a news report in La Jornada, Valdez had just left the premises of Riodoce when he was attacked.
Valdez’s murder came as the Mexican press was reeling from the May 13 attack on a group of seven Mexican and foreign reporters on a work mission in a violence-torn region of the southern state of Guerrero. In that incident, the journalists were reportedly stopped at a roadblock by a group of 100 armed individuals near the town of Acapetlahuaya, stripped of computers and news reporting equipment and wallets, relieved of a truck, and threatened with death.
According to some Mexican news reports, the attack occurred close to two army checkpoints.
Acapetlahuaya is situated in an opium and marijuana production zone that is violently contested by rival narco groups. It’s not far from an area where an armed civilian self-defense movement claiming to be independent of the drug traffickers is active.
Guerrero state officials suspected the attack on the journalists was carried out by one of the competing narco groups, La Familia Michoacana.
The journalists who were the object of last Saturday’s agression included Sergio Ocampo, Guerrero La Jornada correspondent; Jair Cabrera, La Jornada contributor; Hans Maximo Musielik, Vice News; Pablo Perez Garcia, Hispano Post; Jorge Martinez, Quadtrain; Angel Galeana, Imagen TV; and Alejandro Ortiz, Bajo Palabra daily.
Valdez’s murder was sharply condemned by Mexican leaders, journalists and human rights advocates. President Enrique Peña Nieto ordered the special federal investigative unit for crimes against journalists to assist Sinaloa state authorities. Quoted in La Jornada, Amnesty International Mexico declared that “to be a journalist in Mexico seems more like a death sentence than a profession.”
Tania Reneaum, director of Amnesty International Mexico, urged independent investigations into the murders of Valdez and other journalists.
Kent Paterson is an independent journalist who covers issues in the U.S./Mexico border region.