Javier Valdez, an award-winning journalist known for his investigatory reporting on cartels and drug trafficking inside Mexico, was gunned down yesterday in Sinaloa, near where he lived and worked.

“Even though you may have bullet-proofing and bodyguards, [the gangs] will decide what day they are going to kill you.” Valdez had once said, referring to cartel hitmen who have been executing a campaign against journalists who report on their activities in Mexico.

Government officials said Valdez was pulled from his car and shot to the death in the street as he drove through Culiacán, the state capital of Sinaloa.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto Tweeted his condolences to Valdez’s family, and indicated he would be ordering an investigation into the crime.

Valdez is reportedly the sixth journalist to be murdered since early March, and one of 37 murdered since 1994, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). He had spent his entire career risking his life and those of his family to report on the cartels in Mexico. Valdez frequently spoke of the dangers the press in Mexico live with, and said his own sources would disappear or be killed for working with him. Speaking to the CPJ only a few weeks ago, Valdez said he feared for his life.

Journalists in Mexico have lobbied the government to be more proactive in their protection, fearing that the murders, which frequently go unsolved and unpunished, are leading to further silencing of the press in the country. Mexico is the deadliest country on Earth behind only Syria, and ranks third behind Syria and Afghanistan in number of journalists killed, according to Reporters Without Borders.

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Speaking about his brother, Rafael Valdez told the AFP news agency “I asked him several times whether he was afraid. He said ‘yes’; he was a human being. So I asked him why he risked his life and he replied: ‘It is something I like doing, and someone has to do it. You have to fight to change things.'”

Valdez was the author of “Narcoperiodismo,” “Miss Narco,” and “Los Morros del Narco,” among other books which explored topics related to the Mexican drug cartels.

It is estimated that Sinaloa drug cartel alone is responsible for importing 25% of all narcotics that enter the United States. The United States remains the most robust market for drugs, where it leads the world in illegal drug use.

Image courtesy of the NY Daily News