“Kill us all,” a journalist defiantly told the drug cartels. Now he’s dead

Another picture to add to the wall of slain journalists.
Another picture to add to the wall of slain journalists.
Image: Reuters/Edgard Garrido
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Mexican reporter Javier Valdez, who reported on Mexico’s bloody drug wars for more than a decade, was shot dead today (May 15) in broad daylight near his office in the northern Mexican city of Culiacán. He was the fifth journalist (link in Spanish) to be killed in the country so far this year.

Valdez, who wrote a book about the dangers of covering drug cartels and the dirty politicians associated with them, knew the risks of his profession all too well. After the third journalist, Miroslava Breach, was murdered in 2017, he tweeted: “Kill us all, if that is the sentence for reporting on this hell. No to silence.”

Valdez belonged to a rare breed of Mexican reporters who refuse to be silenced through bribes or threats of violence. His courage was well-known—in 2011, the Committee to Protect Journalists gave him its International Press Freedom Award—and his impact was widespread. He wrote several books, such as Narcoperiodismo (Narcojournalism), and started an independent media outlet, Ríodoce, based in Sinaloa. He reported for the Mexican newspaper La Jornada (Spanish.) He was also a valuable source for international reporters trying to piece together the debacle that is Mexico today. Several of former colleagues lamented Valdez’s death on Twitter:

There is little information so far about who killed Valdez, or why. Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto said Monday afternoon that he has directed the federal police to help local authorities investigate ”this outrageous crime.”

But if Valdez’s case is anything like that of the many other reporters who have been murdered in Mexico recently, there’s a good chance his killers will never be punished. Out of the nearly 800 complaints about assaults against journalists filed between 2010 and 2016, only three have resulted in guilty verdicts, according to government statistics reported by Mexican digital outlet Animal Político. With each attack, the Mexican public grows less informed about what is actually happening in their country.