Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – The murder of a journalist Monday in Mexico, the sixth this year – amid an uptick in highly publicized violence – has prompted outrage by international groups and promises by the country’s president to increase armed protection for members of the press.
Javier Valdez Cárdenas, a prominent author and reporter who specialized in covering narcotics violence and corruption, was hauled out his car and shot to death by masked men in Culiacán in the State of Sinaloa, according to media reports.
“We are appalled by this shocking murder,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Latin America desk. “We urge the local and national authorities to identify and arrest those responsible without delay.”
Reporters Without Borders said a sixth journalist murder this year makes Mexico “the world’s deadliest country for the media.”
“Being a journalist in Mexico seems more like a death sentence than a profession,” Tania Reneaum, director of Amnesty International Mexico, said in a statement.
“The continuing bloodshed that the authorities prefer to ignore has created a deep void that is damaging the right to freedom of expression in the country.”
UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova urged Mexican authorities to investigate and ensure the killing did not go unpunished.
In another incident, the wife and son of the owner of a weekly publication in the state of Jalisco were also attacked by gunmen on Monday, resulting in the son’s death, the Mexico City daily El Universal reported.
President Enrique Peña Nieto promised Wednesday to improve measures to provide journalists and human rights activists with security protection. He noted that 598 people are currently in a protection program, including 196 journalists.
The murder of journalists in Mexico is “a disaster zone,” Erubiel Tirado, coordinator of the national security, democracy and human rights program at Iberoamerican University in Mexico City, told CNSNews.com.
“Liberty of expression is a key element of democracy and Mexico is unable to ensure freedom of expression. It’s an ineffective democracy.”
For more than a decade, Tirado said, Mexico has faced an internal explosion of violence promulgated by drug cartels and criminal gangs that has been worsened by collusion of government officials with organized crime at all levels.
“A good deal of business leaders and political leaders would have to be jailed to really deal with the problem,” he said.
“There is no consequence for acts of corruption, and corruption is structural in Mexico.”
Tirado charged that the army is involved in the problem as well, conceding territory to local officials who then hand the territory over to drug cartels.
The recently-released International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Armed Conflict Survey for 2016 determined that Mexico is home to the “second most lethal conflict” in the world, behind Syria.
The survey said 23,000 people were intentionally killed in Mexico in 2016 – a 22.8 percent jump in intentional homicides from 2015 to 2016 – indicating a “security crisis much more complex and serious than most other countries in the region.”
And the problem in Mexico “is getting worse,” the study found.
Meanwhile an online video showing a Mexican soldier killing a fuel theft suspect lying on the ground in Puebla state made waves this week, and Senator Angelica de la Pena, who chairs the Senate Commission on Human Rights said it underscored existing concerns about the government’s “excessive use of the military” to combat crime.
“Unfortunately, there hasn’t been the will on the part of all political forces in the Congress to fundamentally resolve the terrible crisis of insecurity, organized crime and lack of policing,” she said in a press release.
De la Pena told CNSNews.com that the government must push reforms at all levels to provide security to its citizens.
Mexico also needs to “pay attention to what national and international organizations are saying about the situation,” she said.