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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Demands for justice grow stronger on one-year anniversary of murder of Mexican journalist Javier Valdez



The call for justice for Mexico’s journalists will not stop, despite years of violence and impunity that plagues the profession in that Latin American country. To mark the one-year anniversary of the murder of Sinaloa-based reporter Javier Valdez, colleagues and friends carried out a National Day of Protest on social media and in person, calling for his killers to be brought to justice and for an end to violence against the journalists who uncover things that many would prefer were kept secret.

Journalist Javier Valdez was killed in Sinaloa, Mexico on May 15, 2017.

And yet on May 15, 2018, the day marking one year since Valdez was gunned down in Sinaloa, Mexican journalists were confronted yet again with the grim reality facing reporters in the country. Journalist Juan Carlos Huerta was killed in Villahermosa, Tabasco while leaving his home by car. The national mechanism of protection for journalists has been activated in response, according to the Attorney General of Tabasco.

And so, it was in this context that the events planned for May 15 and the surrounding days took on even more urgency.

Ríodoce, the weekly newspaper of which Valdez was co-founder, organized a series of activities for the National Day of Protest that started on May 12 and ended May 16. As noted by La Jornada, the activities included book presentations, documentaries, conferences, and trainings for journalists and human rights defenders.

In remembrance of his friend and colleague, writer Leónidas Alfaro Bedolla wrote in Ríodoce, “The absence of our dear friend and companion from this weekly paper and his family, is notably painful, it is also this way for thousands, perhaps millions of people who kept hope in his journalistic work.”

“His work was inspired by his soul, and the strength of his whole being; looking for the truth with a deep humanist sense,” Bedolla wrote. “The truth to demand justice, the truth to face life with a valuable pretext that gave meaning to existence, the truth to try to decipher the why of barbarism, the truth to find the reason for so much inequality, the truth to know why there is so much corruption, the truth to understand why there are so many dead, so much loneliness and so much insensitivity. Everything is lost in the dark pit of injustice.”

Federal Police arrested a suspect on April 23 who the special prosecutor says drove the vehicle used in Valdez’s murder, according to Ríodoce. Yet, family, colleagues and friends of the journalist are calling for the masterminds behind the crime to be brought to justice.

Press freedom organization Article 19 Mexico wrote that his murder is “emblematic of the failure of the Mexican state to guarantee security for journalists to carry out their work.”

The group pointed out that two days after Valdez was killed, President Enrique Peña Nieto and the National Conference of Governors announced a plan to protect journalists, yet 10 more journalists have been killed since then.

“In effect, it confirms the well-founded suspicion that such actions would not reverse the pattern of aggression against the press in Mexico,” Article 19 wrote, adding that this also occurs despite the accelerated creation of units of protection for journalists.

For May 15, Ríodoce organized a march through Sinaloa to the public prosecutor’s office, urging for the material and intellectual authors of the crime to be punished.

More coverage of the one-year anniversary can be found by clicking a banner that has lived on at the top of Ríodoce’s homepage since Valdez’s murder. On May 15, the count for “Days of Impunity” hit 365.

The newspaper also held a discussion with Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui who is facing a suit for “moral damage” from Joaquín Vargas, president of her former employer Grupo MVS. In an example that not all threats against journalists in Mexico are in the form of physical violence, Proceso magazine reported this week that the Supreme Court of Mexico is seeking to pressure a lower court to rule in favor in Vargas.

The civil association Ojos de Perro vs. Impunidad held live screenings of their new documentary “The truth shall not be killed” online and in Mexico. The film looks at the years 2015 to 2017, in which producer Témoris Grecko says 33 journalists were killed. In addition to the screenings, the organization also streamed conversations with Griselda Triana, widow of Valdez; Patricia Espinosa sister of slain journalist Rubén Espinosa; Jorge Sánchez, son of murdered journalist Moisés Sánchez; Andrés Villarreal of Ríodoce; Jan Jarab, UN human rights representative in Mexico; and other members of the documentary team. A final conversation will be streamed live on the documentary’s social media pages on May 17.

The Latin American Investigative Journalism Award, organized by the Press and Society Institute (IPYS, for its acronym in Spanish) and Transparency International, was renamed after Valdez, IPYS reported. The award will now be sponsored by the Organization of American States (OAS).

And yet beyond these activities and many others planned in the country, journalists and supporters also painted city walls, raised signs at the pyramids, lit candles, and even plastered their message on the border fence separating Mexico and the U.S., to call attention to Valdez’s death and the violence that haunts the country’s press.

On social media, users shared stories about the slain reporter, called for justice in his case and those of other murdered journalists, demanded protections for the press and highlighted investigative journalism that continues in the country.

View a collection of articles and social media posts honoring Valdez, below.



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