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A Mexican journalist remembers her 2 colleagues murdered in Tijuana this month


I fear for my life is what reporter Lourdes Maldonado told Mexico's president at a 2019 press conference. Lourdes Maldonado was shot and killed this month. So was Margarito Martinez, a photojournalist. Both murders occurred in Tijuana. Last year, Mexico had the most murders of journalists in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Gabriela Martinez Cordova knew both of them. She is also a journalist and joins us now.

Thank you so much for being with us.

GABRIELA MARTINEZ CORDOVA: Thank you, Scott. Thank you so much for this space.

SIMON: Firstly, I just want to say I'm sorry and give you our condolences. Can you tell us about the people you knew, what kind of people and reporters they were?

MARTINEZ CORDOVA: In the case of Margarito Martinez, he was one of the best photojournalists here in Baja California, in Tijuana. He learned going to the streets directly. He was my friend. But also, he teach me, you know? When I start to be a journalist, like, 10 years ago, he always was with me in the night because that was my kind of issues to cover for my media - the security issues, the criminal activity in one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico, Tijuana.

SIMON: And could you tell us about Lourdes Maldonado?

MARTINEZ CORDOVA: Everybody knows Lourdes because she was, you know, a symbolic person to the community with a strong character. That was the reason she needed the security.

SIMON: Help us understand that reason. What made both of these great reporters targets?

MARTINEZ CORDOVA: Well, it's a complicated region to be a journalist - not only depends of the issues you - would you work. It's more the place. We are in the border in one of the places more used for the criminal organizations. So you need to be cautious because the place and the normal reality here in Baja California and Tijuana.

SIMON: Is there something someone can do to help protect journalists in Mexico, do you think?

MARTINEZ CORDOVA: Well, we don't trust in the government because in the case of Margarito and Lourdes Maldonado, they asked protection to the government. We have these local and federal mechanisms to protect journalists and activists. And in the case of Margarito, he ask this kind of resources, but they never joined Margarito to the mechanism. Lourdes have actually the protection. They ordered two officers to be with Lourdes in the night. But even she was killed. If the authorities don't have the - they don't want to help us in a serious way, we are trying to do whatever we can do with our own resources, even if - are limited. But we don't want to write about the death of another friend.

SIMON: Forgive me. I've got to ask you. Do you feel safe?

MARTINEZ CORDOVA: It's hard - doesn't feel, like, safe right now.

SIMON: You're doing such important work, reporting on crime and violence and danger and suffering. Why do you do it?

MARTINEZ CORDOVA: For Margarito, for Lourdes, for Jose Luis in Veracruz, Miroslava in Ciudad Juarez, Javier in Sinaloa - all these names are journalists killed in Mexico in recent years. I have the possibility to go to the street and telling stories. Margarito and Lourdes doesn't have any more that possibility. So it's, like, our responsibility for the other journalists.

SIMON: Gabriela Martinez Cordova, a journalist in Tijuana - thank you so much.

MARTINEZ CORDOVA: Thank you, Scott. Thank you, everybody, for this space. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.