On 15 May 2017, veteran reporter Javier Valdez Cárdenas (who reported extensively on the Mexican drug trade) was shot and killed in an attack near the offices of the newspaper he co-founded in Mexico. He was 50.
Valdez’s weekly publication, Ríodoce, confirmed his death, saying he was “intercepted” by unidentified gunmen while driving. The newspaper is based in Culiacán, located in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa.
Valdez wrote 10 books, including Malayerba, which chronicled the history of violence surrounding the drug industry in northern Mexico and Narcoperiodismo, which covers how journalists are influenced or intimidated by drug traffickers. The latter book helped him earn an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2011. CPJ executive director Joel Simon said:
His loss is a blow to Mexican journalism and to the Mexican public, who see a shadow of silence spreading across the country.
Valdez also worked as a correspondent for the Agence France-Press. Michele Leridon, the global news director for the AFP wire service, called on the country’s authorities to “shed all possible light on this cowardly murder”:
Javier showed extreme courage by spending years investigating the powerful drug cartels in Mexico, knowing that he was risking his life in doing so.
In a 2012 interview with Univision News, Valdez described Ríodoce as a newspaper “founded by a fistful of crazy journalists — irreverent dreamers with the principal intention of doing serious journalism, to investigate. To not just rely on the versions of governments and politicians, [but] to go beyond because we don’t believe that there are investigations in Sinaloa.”
Valdez’s death marks the sixth killing of a journalist in Mexico in 2017 alone. No arrests have been made in connection with any of their deaths.
Texas-based professor and journalist Patrick Timmons, who worked with Valdez in translating Malayerba into English, called his death an “immense loss” in part because of the amount of reporting he produced:
He did not consider himself to be a “drug war journalist.” He was a journalist who had to cover the drug war. He once said, “If the drug war weren’t happening in Sinaloa I’d still be covering daily life, just in a different way.”
Besides being an author and reporter, Valdez also wrote a weekly column (also called Malayerba) exploring life in the city, which sits at the center of the country’s violent drug industry.