On Monday night In Mexico City, journalists marched together in the streets and painted “In Mexico they are killing us” in front of the Angel of Independence monument. Several vigils were also planned around the county on Tuesday morning the murder of veteran journalist Javier Valdez. Javier Valdez Cárdenas was a Mexican journalist founder of Ríodoce, a newspaper based in Sinaloa, who received several international awards for his writings on drug trafficking and organized crime in the Mexican Drug War.
Several prominent Mexican news outlets went dark on Tuesday to protest the murder of journalists across the country. The brazen midday killing of Valdez has inspired many journalists in Mexico to take direct action. In Mexico, at least five journalists have been gunned down already in this year alone, and over the past 8 years, 99% of attacks on journalists have gone unpunished.
“In Mexico, journalists are killed because they can be, because nothing happens,” read the text Tuesday on the homepage of Animal Politico, one of Mexico’s most influential online news publications. Instead of its normal content, the site published a black page featuring photos of Valdez and other journalists killed this year. Several other major news outlets did the same.
Since the year 2000, over 125 journalists have been killed in Mexico, according to the National Human Rights Commission, an independent government watchdog.
The grave danger of reporting on drug cartels or government corruption has forced many publications to self-censor and some to even shut down. Those reporters and journalist who do report on these stories often need to employ bodyguards and take other extraordinary security measures.
The death of Valdez, who had been internationally recognized for his work published a book “Huerfanos del Narco” about what he called “narco-journalism” sent waves through Mexico’s media community.
Valdez, was a correspondent for the Mexico City-based “La Jornada” and a co-founder of the regional weekly “Riodoce”, He was shot dead on a busy road in broad daylight in the city of Culiacan.
Alejandro Sicairos, a co-founder of Riodoce, said in a radio interview Tuesday that he is sure that organized crime ordered the attack, dismissing a suggestion by a local prosecutor that Valdez may have been killed in an attempted carjacking.
“We don’t know who ordered it and who carried it out, but we do know that organized crime is directly responsible for this,” he said.
According to Sicairos, Valdez died because he had tirelessly documented rising violence in the state of Sinaloa, where the sons of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman have been fighting other groups for control of the Sinaloa drug cartel in the months since Guzman, the cartel’s founder, was extradited to the U.S.
The bloody conflict has helped drive violence across Mexico, which is on track to record more homicides in 2017 than any year since the government began releasing statistics back in 1997.
“There is unstoppable violence in Sinaloa,” Sicairos said. “And journalism is in the middle of this crossfire.”
In the interview, Sicairos pleaded with the leaders of organized crime to respect journalists, “We give accounts of events, but we have nothing to do with them,” he said.
Tania Montalvo, the editor of Animal Politico, said journalists in her newsroom decided Monday afternoon to stage a full “Day Without Journalism” protest after they learned of Valdez’s death.
“It was a moment to do something, to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” she said.
Mexican President Enrique PeñaNieto, who has been criticized for not speaking out more forcefully after other journalists had been killed, sent out a Twitter message Monday denouncing the killing; “I reiterate our commitment to freedom of expression and press, fundamental to our democracy.”
But media advocates say authorities are not doing nearly enough to protect freedom of expression in Mexico, which last year was named by Reporters Without Borders third most deadly country for journalists, in the world just after Afghanistan and Syria.
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