Javier Valdez, a correspondent for Mexico's largest daily newspaper, La Jornada, was shot dead on Tuesday in the state of Sinaloa.
Masked gunmen forced Valdez from his red Toyota Camry, shot him dead and left his body in the middle of the street, reports Associated Press. The car was found later on a sidewalk next to an elementary school, wedged between a utility pole and a wall with the motor still running and the gears engaged.
Valdez, an award-winning reporter was specialized in covering drug trafficking and organized crime in the northern state of Sinaloa, where a long a hotbed of drug cartel activity took place.
Reporting on Valdez’s killing, Mexican media posted images showing a body lying in the street covered by a blue blanket and surrounded by 12 yellow markers of the kind typically used to flag evidence such as bullet casings. Riodoce said Valdez’s laptop and cellphone were missing.
Prosecutors announced they were investigating whether the killing may have been due to Valdez’s work or a carjacking turned deadly. President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned what he called an “outrageous crime.”
He was considered a rare source of independent, investigative journalism in Sinaloa, said Jan-Albert Hootson, the Mexico representative for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
Valdez was recognized with the International Press Freedom Award in 2011 by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which released a report this month warning that widespread impunity leaves journalists vulnerable to attacks in Mexico.
According to CPJ, some 40 journalists have been killed in Mexico for reasons confirmed as related to their work since 1992. An additional 50 were slain during the same period under circumstances that have not been clarified.
Sinaloa has long been a drug trafficking center and is home to the Sinaloa Cartel headed by notorious kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is in a New York prison awaiting trial on multiple charges. Experts say Guzman’s arrest last year and extradition in January have led to upheaval in the area as rival factions war for control of the gang.
The deputy director of a regional weekly and her son were attacked tonight in the municipality of Autlan de Navarro in Jalisco, Mexico. The young man died instantly, while his mother died on the way to the hospital, according to Tabasco Hoy, although the attorney general of Jalisco has not confirmed her death.