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Remembering Margarito Martínez Esquivel Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

21 January 2022

Tijuana photojournalist Margarito Martínez Esquivel was shot to death in front of his home as he left for work Monday. He was 49.

Raised in a humble family, Martínez became a photographer by accompanying his mother, the reporter Eglantina Esquivel. Going to work as a child, he never attended photojournalism or technical schools, learning on the job by shooting film.

Armed with his radio, car and camera and dressed in camouflage, he would arrive at any crime scene from eight in the afternoon to eight in the morning.

“He was a pioneer in the coverage of police news, he was a school for many of us,” said Gabriela Martínez, who learned alongside him. "Police even asked him to move the bodies, they had so much confidence in him."

A month ago, Martínez filed an official complaint about threats from a former police officer via Facebook over his work as a journalist, according to YoSíSoyPeriodista ("Yes I Am a Journalist"), a Mexican journalists organization. "It was a very serious and false accusation, which made Margarito feel vulnerable, at risk," journalist and colleague Manuel Anaya said.

He sought government protection through the Federal Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, an agency formed in 2012 to address Mexico's rising violence against activists and reporters.

Recently state authorities had activated the protection mechanism, giving him a telephone number to call if he felt he was at risk.

He had been covering crime in Tijuana for nearly two decades as a freelance photographer including work for Zeta Weekly. He gave himself the nickname 4-4 or Cuatro-Cuatro, derived from the police code 10-4, the all-clear signal. "4-4, even, all calm, I'll send you the information," he would broadcast from the crime scene before police and paramedics had arrived.

Tijuana is one of the most violent cities in Mexico, which itself is considered one of the most dangerous places for reporters outside active war zones. Martínez is the second journalist to be killed in the violence-stricken country since the start of the year. Jose Luis Gamboa, the director of the online news site Inforegio in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, was murdered on Jan. 10. Only two percent of all murders in Mexico are ever solved.

In addition to his photojournalism, Martínez served as a fixer for international outlets including the BBC, as well as the San Diego Union-Tribune and Los Angeles Times. In 2019, the San Diego Union-Tribune highlighted Martínez's coverage of violence, drugs and migration in Tijuana.

"This is a huge loss of a great colleague, who worked for many years for almost every single formal media outlet in Tijuana and Baja California," said Sonia de Anda, a Tijuana journalist who runs the news site Esquina 32. "He was a journalist who was very well-known and well-respected by everyone."

Dozens of protestors from the media sector in Tijuana, Mexico, have been demonstrating to demand justice for Martinez and for the investigation to prioritize his work as the motive for the crime.

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