One month ago, the award-winning journalist Javier Valdez was pulled from his car and killed in broad daylight near his office in Culiacán, in Sinaloa state in Mexico. Valdez is the sixth journalist to be assassinated in Mexico this year, and his killing has sparked outcry and sent new shockwaves of fear through the country’s media.
The journalists being targeted in Mexico have something in common: a commitment to documenting political corruption and state links to drug trafficking. Valdez’s assassination follows a pattern of murder directed at silencing the messengers who are digging up truth and exposing the underbelly of the drug war.
Valdez was the co-founder of Ríodoce, the only independent paper still operating in Culiacán, which is the center of the Sinaloa Cartel and much of the drug war violence in the region. In February, Ríodoce published an interview with an envoy from Dámaso López (“El Licenciado”), formerly the right-hand man of the notorious drug lord “El Chapo” Guzmán. Lopez was apparently moving to take control of the Sinaloa cartel’s territory in a fight with Guzmán’s sons before he was captured by authorities last month. Guzman’s sons reportedly pressured Valdez to not publish the interview. Other journalists who were close to Valdez suspect involvement of Sinaloa and federal authorities in the killing. To date, there have been no arrests reported in the case.