The authorities have reported that a photojournalist working for a newspaper in the dangerous Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez was discovered dead from gunshot wounds while in the driver’s seat of a vehicle. This marks the fifth instance of a journalist being killed in the country in 2023.
The corpse of Ismael Villagómez was discovered early Thursday morning. His employer, the Heraldo de Juarez, reported that the photojournalist was found deceased in a vehicle that he had designated for his work with a ride-sharing service. In Mexico, numerous journalists take on additional jobs to cover their expenses.
According to the newspaper, his phone was not located at the site.
The authorities are looking into whether Villagómez, a photographer, was working at the time of his death and if the motive was connected to his job. Carlos Manuel Salas, a prosecutor in Chihuahua, which borders the north, confirmed this information.
“After completing his tenure at El Heraldo, Salas stated that he began working for the ride-sharing platform, inDrive. He typically worked from the late afternoon until early morning hours of 2 or 3am.” Reuters news agency has reached out to InDrive for a comment, but has not received an immediate response.
Salas stated that investigators have not dismissed the idea that Villagomez’s death may be linked to his occupation as a journalist. He added that a journalist’s role is constant, regardless of any other job they may have.
The CPJ urgently urged authorities to investigate the murder.
For almost twenty years, drug cartels have had control over Ciudad Juarez, leading to ongoing conflicts over territory. In many cases, gangs oppose the publication of photos depicting their victims or illegal actions.
“We are worried, grieving, and enraged,” expressed Jose Ramon Ortiz, the head of the newspaper where Villagomez was employed. “We do not want this to become another case of a journalist’s death. We desire, regardless of the reason behind it – whether it be related to their profession or something else – to have a clear understanding.”
In September, Jesús Gutiérrez, a journalist who managed a Facebook page for local news, was murdered in the town of San Luis Rio Colorado in northern Mexico. It is believed that he was caught in the crossfire of an attack targeting the police.
Up to now, three additional reporters have lost their lives in Mexico this year, making it one of the most dangerous regions for journalists outside of a war-torn area.
Over the past five years, the CPJ has reported the deaths of 52 journalists in Mexico. Last year had the highest number of journalist deaths in recent history, with 15 fatalities.
With Associated Press and Reuters