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article imageMexico says journalist Valdez murdered for stories on cartels

By AFP     Apr 24, 2018 in World

Award-winning Mexican journalist Javier Valdez was murdered for his investigative reporting on drug trafficking, the national security commissioner said Tuesday after a suspect was arrested in the high-profile case.

Valdez, a long-time AFP collaborator and the founder of the newsweekly Riodoce, was shot dead in broad daylight on May 15 outside the paper's offices in Culiacan, the capital of his native Sinaloa state, a crime that drew international condemnation.

Confirming what was long suspected by many, Mexican Security Commissioner Renato Sales said investigators found that the murder was "linked to (Valdez's) investigative reporting on subjects such as drug trafficking and organized crime."

Speaking a day after police made their first arrest in the case, Sales identified the suspect as 26-year-old Heriberto N -- suspects' surnames are withheld under Mexican law -- and said he was "linked to a drug trafficking group that operates in the region."

Speaking at a press conference, he said more arrest warrants have been issued, but did not specify how many.

Valdez was one of the most prominent chroniclers of Mexico's deadly drug war in a state where Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, now imprisoned in the United States, once ruled.

In 2011, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists honored Valdez for his work with the prestigious Freedom of Expression Award.

Valdez, 50, was among at least 11 journalists murdered in Mexico last year, making it the deadliest country in the world for the press after Syria, according to watchdog group Reporters Without Borders.

The arrest came as the first anniversary of Valdez's murder approaches, and just before the United Nations and AFP present a journalism prize named for Valdez and another renowned Mexican journalist murdered last year, Miroslava Breach.

The first annual Breach-Valdez prize will be awarded on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.

President Enrique Pena Nieto's government has come in for criticism over the widespread impunity for such cases -- more than 90 percent of journalist murders remain unpunished.

"I would have liked it if (the arrest) had been made sooner," said the director of Valdez's newspaper, Ismael Bojorquez.

"The investigation has been very slow. But the fact they've arrested someone... means things are moving forward," he told AFP.

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