The death toll of journalists in the “deadliest country for journalists in the Americas” since March of 2017 alone has now hit five with the death of award-winning journalist Javier Valdez. He was killed in the northern state of Mexico, Sinaloa. A state government official has stated that Valdez was killed within the city capital, Culiacan. However, besides confirmation that gunmen were seen at Valdez’s office, government officials have not been authorized to speak any more on the issue.
Valdez specialized in covering drug-trafficking and organized crime and had published the books Narcoperiodisimo and Los Morros del Narco. Both books detail the lives of those caught in the Mexican drug industry. He was in Sinaloa as it is the center of the Sinaloa Cartel, led by the notorious Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. According to the CPJ’s website, Valdez stated in an interview that, “Living in Sinaloa is a threat, and being a journalist is an additional threat… We learned how to live in times when bullets are flying around us.”
The targeting of journalists and reporters in Mexico is not a new tragedy, it’s been an ongoing epidemic. By restricting the expression of free speech, Mexican criminals are increasing their monopoly on mainstream media and limiting the forces against them. One newspaper went so far as to shut down after witnessing so many deadly assaults. When the press fears those they’re reporting on, the coverage that the public receives becomes skewed and manipulative if there is any. People’s opinions are directly fed by what they read in the news, or what they don’t read. Lacking coverage of drug crimes results in little to no awareness of the severity of crime in Mexico. Specifically, a region of Mexico in which the drug industry is crucial and highly threatening. Not only are they being limited in what they can say, they’re being discouraged from speaking at all. Reporters can only report the deaths of fellow reporters for so long. Every news source in Mexico that remains strong in spite of these blatant attacks on journalists is acting in defiance of a targeted movement against their right to free speech.