“The quality of police work is very often abysmal, whether because of inability or, even worse, the unwillingness of authorities to conduct swift, exhaustive and credible investigations,” said Hootsen.
The government has invested thousands of dollars in protective measures that journalists can access, including the use of panic buttons, bodyguards and barbed wire for their homes, but it has barely improved the situation. Journalist Cándido Ríos, who was under the federal protection plan, was assassinated last August, in Veracruz.
Valdez's case is unique in that he was an internationally recognized journalist who specifically wrote about violence against journalists. But the brazenness in which he was killed was not unique, nor was his work, which, like other journalists sought to expose links between criminal groups and sectors of the government.
Just two months before Valdez's murder, investigative journalist Miroslava Breach was gunned down outside her home in the northern city of Chihuahua as she was preparing to take her son to school. A note was left, saying she was killed “for being a loud-mouth” She was a correspondent for the national media outlet La Jornada and Norte, a local news outlet, and she had reported extensively on the impact of organized crime on the Tarahumara indigenous people. Norte closed its operations down, following her murder.
The forced displacement of Mexican journalists is another consequence of the violence against reporters and media outlets. Journalist Patricia Mayorga worked closely with Breach as a correspondent for the weekly magazine Proceso and was forced into exile, following her colleague’s murder.
“I lost basically everything, besides my life” said Mayorga, speaking by phone to NBC News from Lima, Peru, far from friends and family.
Mayorga said she will not return home until there is more political willpower to take action against journalists' murders, which she called “the grand cancer of Mexico” which has fostered an “existence of a submissive, silent press.”
In July, Mexico will hold its largest elections in history — which have also proven to be the bloodiest, with over 70 killed to the date.
Human rights and press watchdog groups have criticized presidential candidates for placing little importance on combating violence against journalists.
Mayorga has a sliver of hope that government changes will create a better environment for journalists, which would allow her to return to Chihuahua. She said she wants to work to build stronger networks with journalists who can flex their muscle together and strengthen the country's free press.
In Narcojournalism, Valdez described Mexico as a country with a marvelous geography but also one “where the economic interests of some are placed above the grand majority and they impose their law with impunity, assassinations, corruption, elections plundering, kidnappings and bribes all ruthless to the journalists who search for the truth.”
Those participating in the marches on Tuesday hope his words help eventually usher the necessary changes.
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