Veteran reporter Julio Valdivia was found Wednesday afternoon in Mexico’s coastal state of Veracruz, in the municipality of Tezonapa, decapitated near railroad tracks. His blue motorcycle was found only a few yards from his body, according to Córdoba’s Diario El Mundo, the newspaper where he worked.
The Veracruz government condemned the killing.
Whether Valdivia was killed for his reporting will be a central question for observers of press freedom and Mexican authorities. Valdivia’s journalistic work is “a possible lead to follow” in his murder investigation, Veracruz’s Attorney General’s office said in a statement Wednesday.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Valdivia covered crime and security in Córdoba, and his career spanned two decades.
In Valdivia’s obituary, his colleagues at Diario El Mundo remembered him fondly.
“‘Valdivia’ is how everyone knew him, always responding with a smile and using his unique phrase that characterized him: ‘Let’s go, this is urgent,'” they wrote.
Valdivia leaves behind a wife and four children, the youngest just four years old, according to the newspaper.
Last year, CPJ reported 11 journalists killed in Mexico, the highest worldwide, as it outpaced war-ravaged Syria, where seven journalists were murdered in 2019.
“I am shocked by the brutality of Julio Valdivia’s murder, even in a country where violence against the press continues to rise, even as the country went into partial lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Jan-Albert Hootsen, Mexico’s CPJ representative, told CNN.
Hootsen says Mexican authorities share part of the blame for failing to stop such crimes.
“Bar some exceptions, Mexican authorities, both state and federal, have shown themselves to be utterly incapable of properly investigating crimes against the press,” he said. “The cycle of violence and impunity continues to incentivize anyone who wants to attack the press to do so without any fear of being arrested, prosecuted and sentenced.”
Ties between local officials and gangs can also add to the culture of impunity that makes reporting so risky,…