Javier Valdez, known for his drug cartel reportage, shot dead in Mexico

Javier Valdez, 50, was shot near the premises of Riodoce, a Mexican news weekly he founded, in his hometown of Culiacan in northwestern Sinaloa state, the source said.

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Valdez was the fifth journalist killed this year in a country plagued by drug violence and corruption, according to officials and media rights groups.

“We are horrified by this tragedy and send our condolences to Javier’s family and those close to him,” said AFP’s global news director Michele Leridon.

“We call on the Mexican authorities to shed all possible light on this cowardly murder,” she added.

“Javier showed extreme courage by spending years investigating the powerful drug cartels in Mexico, knowing that he was risking his life in doing so.”

President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Twitter that he had ordered an “investigation of this outrageous crime.”

RelatedRisking his life

Valdez’s brother Rafael said the reporter had been “very happy” in recent days and had not indicated that he had received threats.

“He was very reserved when it came to his work. He never talked about it so as not to drag people into it,” Rafael Valdez told AFP.

“I asked him several times whether he was afraid. He said yes, he was a human being. So I asked him why he risked his life and he replied: ‘It is something I like doing, and someone has to do it. You have to fight to change things.'”

The court source said forensic investigators were analyzing the crime scene.

Mexico ranks third in the world for the number of journalists killed, after Syria and Afghanistan, according to media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) this month said “Mexico’s press is caught in a deadly cycle of violence and impunity.”

Violence – including killings of journalists – surged in Mexico after the government launched a military campaign against drug gangs a decade ago.

In response to that, Valdez founded Riodoce with two colleagues.

It became a key source of news about the drug war in a state where other media self-censored for fear of violence.

Living in danger

Over a nearly 30-year career, Valdez became one of the most renowned journalists in Sinaloa.

The state is home to one of Mexico’s most notorious drug cartels.

“Being a journalist is like being on a black list,” Valdez said at a launch of his last book about drug gangs.

“Even though you may have bulletproofing and bodyguards, (the gangs) will decide what day they are going to kill you.”

His brother Rafael said Valdez had not indicated whether he had been working on any particular investigation lately.

He had written about the Sinaloa drug cartel and its now-detained founder Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Valdez worked for the national daily newspaper La Jornada as well as Riodoce.

He had been a local contributor to global news agency AFP for more than 10 years.

He was known for his smile and white Panama hat. Journalists who worked with him said he kept his sense of humor despite the pressures of his job.

RelatedAward-winning coverage

In 2011, the CPJ gave Valdez an International Press Freedom Award for writing about the victims of the drug war.

Valdez also earned a Maria Moors Cabot award from the Columbia University School of Journalism.

Last year, he published a book about drug gangs and the media.

Mexico has seen 102 journalists murdered since 2000, according to RSF.

China’s new Silk Road plan attracts support

It was an ambitious plan unveiled in 2013.

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And, now, it is considerably closer to becoming a reality, with 68 countries and international organisations signing Belt and Road cooperation agreements with China.

China’s initiative is a modern take on the old Silk Road, a vision to revive the network of silk-trade routes across ocean and land of centuries past.

It is designed to instigate an infrastructure-building boom across Central Asia up to Europe to boost trade and improve transport logistics.

The land-based projects are the belt.

Various economic corridors are part of the scheme, involving such countries as Pakistan, Mongolia and Bangladesh.

The maritime route would connect China’s southern provinces to South-East Asia and the east coast of Africa with ports and railways.

Chinese president Xi Jinping says the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative is in full swing.

He says wide consensus was reached at the forum.

“We hope to jointly look for new driving forces for economic growth through Belt and Road construction, establish new platforms for global development, promote re-balance of economic globalisation and stride forward towards the target of building a community of common destiny for mankind.”

Leaders at the summit have agreed to promote a rules-based, open and multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organisation at its core.

In a communique issued at the close of the forum, China and other nations have also stressed the importance of expanding trade and investment based on a level playing field.

But the communique was not agreed upon before some intense discussion, debate and demands.

European Union Commission vice president Jyrki Katainen urged negotiations on equal market access for European Union firms in China be accelerated.

“Chinese companies have full access to the European market when they want to invest in Europe, but, unfortunately, this is not the case with the European companies in the Chinese market. And this is the reason why European companies’ investments with China have decreased. Actually, last year, it dropped some 23 per cent, which is the lowest for 10 years. And it’s only because of problems in the Chinese market, or the lack of market access.”

Mr Xi has pledged $124 billion US for his new Silk Road.

But Western diplomats and China’s key Asian rivals like Japan and India have expressed reservations about China’s motives.

And Jabin Jacob, from the Delhi-based Institute of Chinese Studies, has told Al Jazeera a number of technical details remain to be ironed out.

“Each of these countries across Asia has different gauges for their railway tracks. So that’s something that needs to be fixed. At the moment, they are just transported from one coach, from one gauge, to another. Then there are issues of … well, questions over currency management, financial transactions, all of this. You know, China is also trying to use this as a vehicle for the internationalisation of the renminbi, but quite a few countries, including allies, so-called allies, are uncomfortable using the Chinese renminbi. They still prefer the US dollar.”

China plans to host another One Belt One Road forum in 2019.

 

Hogan’s AFL cancer news flattens Roughead

The news of Melbourne AFL forward Jesse Hogan’s cancer diagnosis has hit Hawthorn captain Jarryd Roughead particularly hard.

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It came a year to the day that a routine check-up revealed Roughead had suffered a recurrence of melanoma.

The star immediately started treatment that sidelined him for the rest of the year.

Roughead, who made a full recovery to play every game this season, offered Hogan his best wishes.

“I was talking to my wife last night and saying it’s 12 months – a lot has happened in that 12 months,” Roughead said.

“When you hear something like this, this morning, it just flattens you because you just don’t wish this upon anyone.

“That’s not what our game is about.”

Roughead knows first-hand that the outpouring of support for Hogan will help the 22-year-old.

“As I said when I went through it, this is something that you know you have the full support (of the AFL),” he said.

“It’s not like the weekend, where you have opposition sides – you know you have everyone in the corner.

“So knowing he has the support of not just the footy world, but the public, everyone is on his side, get’s you through.”

Asked if he could relate to what Hogan was going through, Roughead replied ruefully: “I’m one of the only few who can.

“It brings back memories and emotions … he’s a huge talent (in) the game and you want to see these blokes out on the park. You don’t want to see blokes have to go through this.

“So footy becomes second. You want to make sure he’s alright and just getting himself right before we even think about him coming back.”

Roughead said he would make contact if Hogan wanted to talk, but added the priority was for the Melbourne star to undergo his surgery and deal with the illness.

“When the dust settles, there might be a time to reach out and offer a hand if he wants a chat,” Roughead said.

Roughead also noted that he and Hogan had vastly different forms of cancer.

“Even though the big word is the word starting with ‘C’ – you don’t want to hear that at all – each case is different,” he said.

WA could host second welfare card trial

Cashless welfare cards could soon be rolled out across a second Western Australian site, with three Goldfield towns throwing their hats in the ring to take part in an upcoming trial.

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The federal government will continue two existing debit card test runs – one in the East Kimberley region of WA and another at Ceduna in South Australia – and is looking for two more trial sites.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge will visit Kalgoorlie, Laverton and Leonora on Wednesday to meet with community leaders.

“They have certainly been one of the groups that has reached out and said that they would like to explore the introduction of the card in their region,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“But we certainly have not made any decisions and we will be having discussions in relation to it tomorrow.”

The cards quarantine 80 per cent of welfare payments, which cannot be used to buy booze or gamble but can pay for housing, food, clothing, household supplies and essentials.

The remaining 20 per cent of a welfare payment is placed in a person’s regular bank account and can be withdrawn as cash.

A recent review of the two existing trials found the cards had been effective in reducing alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and gambling.

However half the participants surveyed said their lives were worse than before the trials.

Mr Tudge said many other regions had put their hands up for the cards but the government would limit the trials to two additional areas.

“In Western Australia, there are many troubled regions where welfare-fuelled alcohol abuse particularly causes all sorts of harm,” he said.

“Consequently, in Western Australia I have had community leaders from right across the state who have approached me in relation to it.”

Mr Tudge said the intention has never been to roll out the cards nationally, with the cards instead developed to focus on particular regions in need.

The two new cashless welfare card trials are expected to start in September.