Latin America & Caribbean

Mexican journalists protest over Javier Valdez killing

Two men holding up pictures of Javier Valdez Image copyright AFP
Image caption Journalists commemorated the veteran crime writer who was shot dead on Monday

Journalists in Mexico have protested against the killing of one of their colleagues and called on the government to take action.

Award-winning journalist Javier Valdez was shot dead on Monday, close to the offices of the newspaper he had founded in his home state, Sinaloa.

He had spent his career investigating drug cartels and had been repeatedly threatened.

He is one of several journalists who have been killed in Mexico this year.

In Mexico City on Tuesday, protesters wrote "They are killing us" and "No to silence" - a phrase used by Mr Valdez - on the road next to the iconic Monument to Independence on the main thoroughfare, Paseo de la Reforma.

Those who were there in person held images of Mr Valdez, while others stuck in their office worked below his projected image on a big screen.

Judith Calderón Gómez, the head of journalists' lobby group Casa de los Derechos de Periodistas, told those present that prosecutions had only happened in 0.03% of cases.

She called on the government to "give a real sign they are interested in guaranteeing journalism in the country".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Protesters released images captured using a drone

BBC Mundo's Juan Paullier, who met Mr Valdez once, said he was "a charming, brave and respected man" and his death was "a terrible loss for Mexico's embattled journalism".

"He wanted to tell the stories and dreams of the victims," he said, and " in a country where impunity is the norm, the only certainty seems to be that cases like this won't stop".

Mexican news outlets Animal Político and Tercera Vía are going on strike on Wednesday to protest against the murder, and the ongoing risks to reporters.

Last week, Mexico appointed a new prosecutor to investigate crimes against freedom of expression - including the killing of journalists.

Mr Valdez had once said: "The government couldn't care less. They do nothing to protect you. There have been many cases and this keeps happening."

Speaking at a launch of his book last year, Mr Valdez said being a journalist "is like being on a blacklist" and that gangs "will decide what day they are going to kill you".

In March, after journalist Miroslava Breach was shot dead, Valdez was quoted as saying "No to silence" and "Let them kill us all".

Like Valdez, Breach had reported on organised crime, drug-trafficking and corruption.

Other Mexican journalists killed this year include freelancers Maximino Rodríguez and Cecilio Pineda Birto, according to the CPJ.

The CPJ says at least 40 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 1992.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Valdez was shot on a street in Culiacan

During his career spanning nearly three decades, Mr Valdez wrote extensively on drug-trafficking and organised crime in Mexico, including the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel.

The cartel is believed to be responsible for an estimated 25% of all illegal drugs that enter the US via Mexico.

Its former head Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was recaptured in 2016, following two jail breaks, and was extradited to the US in January.

Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto condemned the killing, calling it an "outrageous crime", and added that his government remained committed to press freedom.

Sinaloa state attorney general Juan Jose Rios said the death was being investigated, and Valdez's family and colleagues would be protected.

More journalists are killed in Mexico every year than in any other country that does not have a continuing war. The only countries where more journalists are killed are Syria and Afghanistan, according to the group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

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