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Javier Valdez: Chronicle of a death foretold?

Candles adorn images of the murdered journalist, Javier Valdez, and the words
Candles adorn images of the murdered journalist, Javier Valdez, and the words "Justice! No to silence!" during a protest in Mexico City

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

"They killed Miroslava for having a big mouth. They should kill us all if that's the punishment for reporting on this hell. No to silence." That is what the famous journalist, Javier Valdez Cárdenas, declared on 25 March 2017 in the wake of the brutal murder of his colleague, Miroslava Breach. Once again challenging those who try to silence the work of bringing the horror of drug trafficking in Mexico to light, Valdez tweeted this sentiment while standing by his approach to covering drug trafficking, as he had done for years, in Sinaloa, one of the most dangerous states in Mexico.

On Monday, 15 May assailants opened fire on him metres from Riodoce, the weekly newspaper that he founded, and where he worked despite the threats and prevailing climate.

Valdez, who was 50 years old, had been a correspondent for the La Jornada newspaper in Sinaloa since 1998, and he was the founder of the weekly newspaper Ríodoce. According to various local media outlets, around noon, strangers travelling in a car in downtown Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, intercepted his car and shot the renowned journalist and writer, informs the IAPA.

The murder, which is the fifth of the year, occurred just six days after the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, promised to prioritise the fight against impunity in the murders of journalists for the rest of his term of office, which ends next year. The head of state declared that the security and protection of journalists would also be a priority.

Peña Nieto declared
before a visiting delegation of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that his Government was committed to following-up on the investigations on attacks against the press, and he guaranteed the financing of a federal protection mechanism, and whose current budget would have been exhausted by October.

Unbridled impunity

Valdez was awarded the Sinaloa Journalism Award and the International Press Freedom Award by the CPJ in 2011. Riodoce was awarded Columbia University's María Moors Cabot journalism award and in 2013, the PEN Club award for editorial excellence.

His death exacerbates the difficult situation for journalists in Mexico - the deadliest country in the world to practise this profession. Deaths and attacks have increased in the face of crimes carried out with impunity; these remain unresolved and encourage the perpetrators to continue committing crimes, as several IFEX members warn.

"Impunity has allowed assaults against the press to become increasingly brazen. Five murders in broad daylight send a clear message about the power of the perpetrators; a power that persists with the consent of the state itself. Assaults against the press are systematic and we need results, not more false assurances. Violence against the press must be a State issue that is combated with a State policy. Until today, guarantor institutions have served as a cover for impunity," said Ana Cristina Ruelas, director of ARTICLE 19's Mexico and Central America Office.

"Once more, this wave of violence demonstrates the state of emergency in which Mexican journalists find themselves operating in, above all, those who cover delicate matters such as drug trafficking and organised crime, and who have become the target of these criminal groups. The Mexican government must act in a way that is proportionate to the seriousness of the situation, and must strengthen the protection mechanisms for journalists," warned Emmanuel Colombié, director of the Latin American Office of Reporters without Borders (RSF).

Kill them all

This murder once again led the international community to condemn the situation, which is far from being resolved and worsening every day. 23 journalists have disappeared in Mexico, since 2003. Additionally, the murders of 105 journalists in Mexico have been registered since 2000, in connection with their reporting. Mexico is ranked 147th out of 180 countries, in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index..

Joel Simon, Executive Director of the CPJ, stated that "the Committee to Protect Journalists awarded the International Press Freedom Award to Javier Valdez Cárdenas in 2011, as a tribute to his courage and journalism without concessions in the face of threats." He added that "his loss is a major blow to Mexican journalism and society, which sees how the shadow of silence extends throughout the whole country."

The president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information of the IAPA, Roberto Rock, said that "a sense of helplessness is felt every day in this country when one is confronted with impunity and the lack of legal action on the numerous cases of attacks upon and murders of journalists."

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