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Journalists throughout border region mourn the loss of crime photojournalist

Tijuana photo journalist Margarito Martinez was murdered outside his home Monday morning. He was among more than 134 journalists who’ve been killed in Mexico since 1992. KPBS Border Reporter Gustavo Solis tells us who Martinez was and what our region lost.

Photojournalist Margarito Martinez, who took on the grisly task of chronicling Tijuana’s crime, was gunned down outside his home on Monday.

If you’ve read high-profile stories coming out of Tijuana from big news outlets in recent years, you likely didn’t see Margarito Martinez’s byline.

But there’s a good chance he played an important role in the story.

Martinez worked as a freelance photographer for several local news outlets in Tijuana. But he was also one of Tijuana’s top fixers — an industry term for those who help foreign journalists report on the city’s violence.


Martinez was shot and killed outside his home on Monday, becoming one of more than 134 journalists who’ve been killed in Mexico since 1992. Journalists throughout the border region have responded with an outpouring of tributes and support.

“It hurts,” said Jorge Nieto, a freelancer who worked with Martinez in Tijuana.

Despite covering the darkest aspects of life — often working through the night moving from one bloody scene to the next — Martinez was known as a positive and friendly person.

Nieto remembered Martinez for his smile.

“In between the blood, between the gunshots, the worse scenarios, he’d make you feel like ‘hey buddy, we are going to be OK,’” he said.


The Association of Tijuana Journalists issued a statement calling for a thorough investigation into Martinez’s death. Reporters from both sides of the border set up aGoFundMe page to raise money for Martinez’s widow and teenage daughter.

Police have not identified a suspect or motive for Martinez’s death.

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Martinez helped reporters from all over the world as a fixer, including those working for the Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times and New York Times.

He was known as the go-to fixer for anyone wanting to report on crime and narco-violence. Tijuana is one of the most dangerous cities in the world, averaging roughly 2,000 murders a year, according to local figures.

With numbers so high, it is easy to become desensitized to the violence. But Martinez’s relentless effort to chronicle the carnage made it difficult for people to ignore, said former Union-Tribune reporter Sandra Dibble.

“Somebody like Margarito was an essential person to document these scenes,” Dibble said. “I think to have someone go out there did sort of keep the eyes of the world on an important issue for Tijuana that otherwise would be easy to overlook.”

Martinez is the second journalist to be killed in Mexico so far this year. Jose Luis Gamboa was fatally stabbed in Veracruz last week.

Journalists in Tijuana are demanding justice for Martinez and greater protection for journalists in general. The Committee to Protect Journalists says Mexico is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world — outside of active warzones — to be a reporter.