Mexican journalist shot dead in car, motive unclear

A photographer takes a photo at the crime scene where photojournalist Ismael Villagomez Tapia of local newspaper El Heraldo de Juarez was shot dead by unknown assailants, according to local media in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, November 16, 2023. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – A Mexican photojournalist died early Thursday morning in Ciudad Juarez while working as a public transport driver, authorities and his employer said.

Ismael Villagomez, a photographer for El Heraldo de Juarez newspaper, was shot dead in his vehicle in the notoriously violent border city around 1:30 a.m., according to local authorities.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world in peacetime for journalists, although investigators say they were not able to immediately determine whether the murder was related to his profession.

“After he finished working at El Heraldo, he started using the inDrive (passenger transportation) platform,” local prosecutor Carlos Manuel Salas told reporters. “He usually worked from afternoon until 2 a.m., 3 a.m.”

InDrive said it was complying with authorities’ requests as part of its investigation and that three suspects had been arrested.

In Mexico, many journalists work outside the profession to pay the bills.

TO READ: Gun attack in Mexico: policeman and journalist killed

Investigators have not ruled out that Villagomez was killed in connection with his journalistic work, Salas said.

“A journalist is a journalist 24 hours a day, whether he was doing something else in the meantime or not,” Salas said, adding that Villagomez’s cell phone was not at the scene.

According to the Article 19 advocacy group, in 2022 there was a documented attack on the press in Mexico every 13 hours.

“We are concerned, sad and angry,” said Jose Ramon Ortiz, director of the newspaper where Villagomez worked. “We don’t want the situation to resemble the deaths of other journalists. We want to be clear whether the motive was journalistic or related to something else.”

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