Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

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 red Toyota Camry, shot him dead and left his body in the middle of the street Monday, said Riodoce, the publication he helped start.

The car was found later in the afternoon 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 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.

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.”

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, said Jan-Albert Hootson, the Mexico representative for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. (AP)

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