Mexico City (AFP) – Journalists are being shot dead in broad daylight in Mexico and the killers are going unpunished, rights groups said after prominent reporter Javier Valdez became the fifth such victim this year.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Mexico as the third most deadly country for journalists in the world — after Syria and Afghanistan.
Its so-called “drugs war” has the armed forces on one side, powerful gangs on the other and corrupt officials in between — and those not wanting to be reported on are getting away with murder.
– ‘Brazen’ murders –
Killings of journalists in Mexico hit a record in 2016 at 16, according to RSF.
In the past reporters, were kidnapped or killed in secret, but recent victims such as Valdez have been gunned down on the street, in broad daylight.
“It has become brazen and cynical,” said Ana Cristina Ruelas, Mexico director of freedom of expression group Articulo 19.
“For the past decade, we have been raising the alert about a situation that is becoming more and more dangerous,” she said.
“But the state is not capable of investigating properly and that is an inducement for them to keep killing journalists.”
– Shot while shopping –
Valdez, 50, was shot dead in the street near his office, a source in the state prosecution service said.
A contributor to AFP, Valdez had written extensively for Mexican newspapers about drug gangs in his home state of Sinaloa.
The other four journalists killed this year were also targeted while out and about.
Three of them were shot dead in March: Cecilio Pineda at a car wash in Guerrero state, Ricardo Monlui at a restaurant in Veracruz and Miroslava Breach as she sat next to her son in a car in Chihuahua.
After Breach’s murder, the Diario Norte newspaper she worked for in Ciudad Juarez closed down for security fears.
In April, Maximino Rodriguez was shot dead as he arrived at a store with his wife who uses a wheelchair in Baja California Sur, media said.
– ‘Shadow of silence’ –
“Mexico’s press is caught in a deadly cycle of violence and impunity,” said the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists in a report this month.
Despite some judicial efforts, “a lack of political will to end impunity exposes Mexico as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.”
In the case of Valdez, “his loss is a blow to Mexican journalism and to the Mexican public, who see a shadow of silence spreading across the country,” said Joel Simon, the CPJ’s executive director, in a statement.
– Corrupt officials –
Articulo 19 says more than half of the reported threats received by journalists have come from public officials.
“When journalists cover subjects linked to organized crime or political corruption (especially at the local level), they immediately become targets and are often executed in cold blood,” RSF said in a recent report.
Articulo 19 says 105 journalists have been murdered and a further 23 have disappeared since 2000.
Of those cases, 99.7 percent remain unsolved, meaning the culprits have gone unpunished, it says.
“We do not see the violence against journalists stopping,” said Balbina Flores, a representative of RSF in Mexico.
“Every time we think things are really going to change, there is another murder.”