A Mexican official said Monday that veteran journalist Javier Valdez has been slain in the country, one of the world's most unsafe for media workers.
Javier Valdez, 50, was shot near the premises of Riodoce, a Mexican news weekly he founded, in his northwestern hometown of Culiacan, the source said.
Valdez was a veteran reporter who also worked as a correspondent for the national newspaper La Jornada.
According to reports, the journalist specialized in covering the drug trafficking was driving at 12 p.m. along the Vicente Riva Palacio street when a gunman stopped him, forced him to get out of his vehicle and shot him dead.
Valdez was recognized with the International Press Freedom Award in 2011 by CPJ, which released a report this month warning that widespread impunity leaves journalists vulnerable to attacks in Mexico.
A wave of attacks, several of them fatal, targeted reporters in Mexico over the last few months, NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico.
Mexican and foreign journalists paid homage to Valdez on social media, describing him as a courageous writer and generous friend whose killers must be brought to justice to deter future slayings.
Police later found his vehicle abandoned a few streets away, where it had been left by the gunman, according to the state prosecutor, Juan Jose Rios.
Riodoce reported that Valdez was driving about a block from its offices when he was intercepted by gunmen.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto condemned the slaying in a tweet, and expressed condolences to Cárdenas' family.
A special federal prosecutor's office tasked with crimes against freedom of expression said it had started the procedure for opening an inquiry and was sending a team to collect evidence.
Photographs from Sinaloa showed Valdez's body in the middle of a street, the brimmed hat he often wore lying among a dozen yellow markers for bullets. The former is a look at the relationship between journalism and organized crime, and the latter chronicles the lives of young people swept up in Mexico's criminal underworld.
Valdez belonged to a rare breed of Mexican reporters who refuse to be silenced through bribes or threats of violence.
By the group's count, some 40 journalists have been killed in Mexico for reasons confirmed as related to their work since 1992. "It's also home to the Sinaloa cartel, which until recently was headed by Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman" - the infamous drug lord who, after a high-profile escape and recapture, has been extradited to the US and is awaiting trial.
"Being a journalist is like being on a black list", Valdez said at a launch of his last book about drug gangs.