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Mexican journalist Margarito Martínez has been murdered in Tijuana


This year has already been a deadly one for journalists in Mexico. Two were killed by unknown assailants. It's not a new story that reporters' lives are in danger in Mexico, but the most recent murder of a photojournalist in the northern border city of Tijuana has shaken his colleagues deeply. NPR's Carrie Kahn is in Tijuana and joins us now. Hey, Carrie.


CHANG: So tell us more about this photographer. Who was he?

KAHN: He's very well known here. His name was Margarito Martinez. He was 49 years old, and he's been a photographer covering crime here for nearly two decades. He worked for multiple media outlets, including many international ones. And, Ailsa, he had this nickname 4-4, Cuatro-Cuatro. Here's a colleague of his, Tijuana journalist Gabriela Martinez Cordova (ph).

GABRIELA MARTINEZ CORDOVA: Margarito always, always with everybody when he say hi or goodbye, that was the answer, cuatro-cuatro (speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Four-four - it's a police term, and Martinez used that same vernacular with his colleagues. And, you know, that was his way of giving them the all-clear sign that it was safe to come to a crime scene because he was the first, you know, just many, many times to arrive to these horrific and dangerous sites. Authorities say he was killed in front of his home Monday afternoon as he was leaving to head out to a crime scene. And the gun that was used to kill Martinez has been tied to five other crimes in Tijuana in the past year.

CHANG: Wow. Horrible. Well, what have authorities said about his murder? I mean, it was in broad daylight. Do they have any suspects, any idea of motive at this point?

KAHN: Local police that arrived at the scene immediately after he was killed said it looked like a neighborhood dispute. But state investigators said they were looking at possible ties as his work as a journalist. A man who posts about crime in the city on social media was arrested early yesterday morning. He had had a public fight with Martinez over these crime news sites that have just proliferated in the city. He had accused Martinez of creating fake news websites, but this man was arrested on possessing marijuana found at his home when authorities searched it yesterday. He was not charged in the murder of Martinez.

CHANG: Can you just walk us through that? Like, what is this fight over social media and news websites that's going on in Tijuana right now?

KAHN: It's not a new fight. Like many places in the world, there have been a significant rise in Facebook pages and Twitter accounts of all sorts of people covering the news. But keep in mind, Tijuana is one of the most violent cities in Mexico, and amidst that, we have many, many websites that just show these violent scenes, graphic murders. And they don't follow traditional journalistic ethics and protocols for reporting on the violence. So there have been clashes with traditional journalists, and they say this free-for-all type of reporting puts them in danger because unlike the bloggers and Facebook communicators, you know they're anonymous or their backers are anonymous, but everybody knows who the traditional journalists are. And to highlight this, several reporters in Tijuana just this week have asked for protection from state and federal law enforcement due to threats they've received since Martinez's murder.

CHANG: OK. Well, at this point, where does the investigation go from here?

KAHN: It's unclear. Look, Mexico is a very dangerous place for journalists. Press Freedom Group says it's the most dangerous outside of a war zone. It's just January. We've already had two killed, Martinez here in Tijuana and a reporter in Veracruz. You know, we could focus on this twist here about new journalism versus old journalism. But the bottom line is journalists in Mexico are dealing with incredible impunity here. Only about 2% of all murders in Mexico are ever solved, let alone a perpetrator sentenced. Martinez's funeral is tonight here in Tijuana, and scores of his colleagues are expected to be there.

CHANG: That is NPR's Carrie Kahn reporting from Tijuana. Thank you so much, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.