A journalist celebrating his 29th birthday was shot dead early Monday at a bar in the Mexican resort city of Rosarito.
Luciano Rivera Salgado, who covered crime for a Baja California television channel and published a news website called El Dictamen, is at least the eighth journalist to be killed this year in a country that ranks among the most dangerous for members of the media.
The motive behind the killing — including whether Rivera Salgado was killed because of his journalistic work — was still unclear.
A police official told Zeta newspaper that Rivera Salgado was shot in the head at 1:40 a.m. at La Antigua Bar, an upscale drinking establishment a few blocks from the ocean. Security camera footage from outside the bar shows several men racing out shortly after the shooting.
The official who spoke to Zeta said authorities would investigate the motive but that it appeared Rivera Salgado may have been killed because of "a dispute between the reporter and his aggressors" at the bar. A reporter in Baja California said camera footage from inside the bar suggested Rivera Salgado may have angered other patrons when he defended a group of women whom he believed were being harassed.
Determining exactly why a journalist was killed can be difficult in Mexico, where reporters are frequently targeted because of the stories they publish, but where more general violence is also becoming increasingly widespread.
Mario Rivera, the director of CNR TV, where Rivera Salgado worked for nearly 10 years, said it was essential that authorities look closely at whether Rivera Salgado's work played a role in his killing.
"He often criticized the security situation here," the director said of Rivera Salgado. "We as a station have been very tough critics."
"We are looking at all of the lines of investigation," he said, adding that the station is checking to see whether Rivera Salgado had recently received any threats.
Of the seven other journalists killed in Mexico this year, at least four were slain in direct retaliation for their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which has named Mexico the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere for journalists. Only Iraq has seen more journalists killed.
The recent killings include the mid-day slaying in May of investigative reporter Javier Valdez as well as the March shooting of journalist Miroslava Breach, who had investigated links between organized crime and political candidates in the state of Chihuahua.
Their deaths have prompted an international campaign aimed at Mexico's top leaders, with news outlets from around the world calling on President Enrique Peña Nieto to do more to investigate the killings. Like most slayings in Mexico, those targeting media workers are rarely solved.
One of the most recent stories published on Rivera Salgado's El Dictamen website marked the anniversary of the unsolved killing two years ago of Mexican photographer Ruben Espinosa.
Violence targeting journalists is part of a larger crime wave sweeping the country, which is on track to record more killings this year than at any point in the last two decades. Baja California, which has been the site of a turf battle between warring drug cartels, has been especially hard hit.
Government statistics show that 185 people were killed in the state in May, which equates to an annual rate of 67 deaths per 100,000 people — or roughly 11 times that of Los Angeles in recent years.