Javier Valdez was driving in broad daylight down a street he must have known well, just a block from his office, when he became the latest victim of a wave of journalist killings that has hit Mexico. Masked gunmen forced Valdez from his car, shot him dead, and left his body in the middle of the street Monday, reports Riodoce, a publication he helped start. Valdez, an award-winning reporter who specialized in covering drug trafficking and organized crime, was slain in the northern state of Sinaloa, long a hotbed of drug cartel activity. He is at least the sixth journalist murdered in Mexico since early March, an unusually high number even for one of the world's deadliest countries for media professionals, the AP reports
President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned what he called an "outrageous crime." Valdez, also a correspondent for the national newspaper La Jornada, was an internationally recognized journalist who authored several books on the drug trade. He was considered a rare source of independent, investigative journalism in Sinaloa, says Jan-Albert Hootson, the Mexico representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "And for that same reason, he and his magazine and his co-workers were always under threat of violence," Hootson says. Hootson describes Valdez as a warm, friendly man, well-liked by other journalists who frequently sought his help to navigate and understand the complex, dangerous state. "His door was always open. ... Everybody always deferred to his knowledge," Hootson said. "And in that sense, it's a huge loss for everybody."