Mexico and the international journalism community continue to grieve the death of Javier Valdez Cardenas. The award-winning reporter, who had long been covering the drug war in Mexico, was gunned down in broad daylight earlier this week. He is now the fifth journalist to be killed in the country this year – a reminder of the perils of covering the drug trade in narco territory. It’s a topic Valdez Cardenas was well-versed in. He literally wrote the book on it: Narcoperiodismo (Narcojournalism). What better time then, to honor his memory by looking back at his well-documented fight for an unflinching journalistic ethic that often required him to put his life on the line?
The Committee to Protect Journalists, which awarded him the International Press Freedom Award, produced two short films that put his work into context. Both can and should be streamed, serving as they do as shining examples of what made his work urgent and necessary. Together Working in Peril and Organized Crime and Corruption ask the simple question that nagged at Valdez Cardenas throughout his life’s work: “How do we do journalism despite the risk?” While discussing the endless death threats he got on a daily basis and the many attacks his Rio Doce offices suffered, the Mexican reporter makes it clear in these testimonial-cum-documentaries that he firmly believes there is a moral imperative to telling the stories others want buried. More tellingly, he joins many others in his country who have called for more support from the government to protect the freedom of the press.
And for those looking to put Mexico’s situation into greater context, there may be no better primer than Univision’s Pressionados: Libertad de Prensa. The Spanish-language documentary looks at the current state of journalism throughout Latin America. Looking at it now, Valdez Cardenas’ segment in the doc is sure to strike a chord. “Staying silent in my case is an act of cowardice, of complicity and of death,” he said while on camera. “And I’m not complicit nor am I a coward. But I also don’t consider myself brave – but I’m also not dead.” Chilling words in any context, but even more so knowing how he died. Check out the full doc below.