CULIACAN, Mexico – A journalist and author known for his coverage of Mexico’s drug war was killed on Monday in the western city of Culiacan, sources in the Sinaloa state government confirmed to EFE.
Javier Valdez, 50, was fatally shot while walking near the offices of Riodoce, a newsweekly he helped found.
The shots were fired from a passing vehicle.
Recognized as an expert on the impact of the drug trade on Mexican society, Valdez was honored in 2011 by the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists with the International Press Freedom Award.
Later that year, Valdez and his colleagues at Riodoce received a Maria Moors Cabot Prize from the Columbia University School of Journalism.
Investigators will look into the possibility that Valdez’s killing was connected to his work as a reporter, state Attorney General Juan Jose Rios Estavillo told the media.
The office of the federal Special Prosecutor for Offenses against Press Freedom will send a team to take part in the investigation, he said.
Authorities are also concerned to “safeguard” Valdez’s family and other members of the Riodoce staff, the attorney general said, appealing to members of the journalists guild to come forward with any information that could aid the probe.
Besides his role with Riodoce, Valdez was the Sinaloa correspondent for national daily La Jornada and the author of several books, including “Miss Narco,” based on the story of the 2008 winner of Our Sinaloa Beauty, Laura Elena Zuñiga.
The beauty queen was arrested along with her boyfriend and six other men on firearms and money laundering charges on Dec. 23, 2008.
Though Zuñiga was released a few weeks later due to lack of evidence, her story inspired Mexican director Gerardo Naranjo’s 2011 film “Miss Bala.”
In an interview with EFE last October marking the publication of his book “Narcoperiodismo,” Valdez said that “valiant” and worthwhile journalism was becoming ever rarer in Mexico as organized crime and corrupt officials moved to silence independent voices with bullets or bribes.
Last weekend, seven journalists were briefly detained and threatened by a large group of armed men in the southern state of Guerrero.
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists to work.
A total of 126 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000.
On April 29, Filiberto Alvarez Landeros was murdered in Tlaquiltenango, a city in the central state of Morelos, as he was heading home after wrapping up his radio show
In March, Cecilio Pineda was murdered in the southern state of Guerrero; Ricardo Monlui was killed in the northwestern state of Sinaloa; Miroslava Breach was killed in the northern state of Chihuahua; and Maximo Rodriguez was killed in the northwestern state of Baja California Sur.
Eleven journalists were murdered and 426 attacks on the media were registered in Mexico in 2016, the press rights group Article 19 said in a report released earlier this year.