In the early hours of Thursday, a Mexican photojournalist, Ismael Villagomez, lost his life in Ciudad Juarez while working as a ride-share driver, as confirmed by local authorities and his employer.
Ismael Villagomez, photographer for El Heraldo de Juarez, was fatally shot in his vehicle in the notoriously violent border city around 1:30 a.m., according to reports from local authorities.
Mexico, known for being one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, has yet to establish a direct link between Villagomez’s killing and his journalistic profession.
Local prosecutor Carlos Manuel Salas shared details, stating, “Once his work at El Heraldo was over, he worked through the (ride-hailing) platform inDrive. He would normally work from the afternoon until 2 a.m., 3 a.m.” InDrive, the ride-hailing platform, assured compliance with investigative authorities’ requests and confirmed the arrest of three suspects.
It is a common practice in Mexico for journalists to take on additional work outside their profession to meet financial needs.
While investigators have not ruled out the possibility that Villagomez was targeted due to his work as a journalist, Salas emphasized, “A journalist is a journalist 24 hours a day, whether or not they were working as something else meanwhile.” Notably, Villagomez’s cellphone was missing from the scene, adding another layer of complexity to the ongoing investigation.
In 2022, advocacy group Article 19 documented an attack against the press in Mexico every 13 hours, reflecting the alarming risks faced by journalists in the country.
Jose Ramon Ortiz, the director of El Heraldo de Juarez, expressed concern and called for clarity, saying,
“We don’t want this to be like what has happened with the deaths of other journalists. We want, whether the motive was journalistic or related to something else, to have clarity.”
The incident underscores the ongoing challenges faced by journalists working in Mexico and the urgent need for comprehensive investigations to ensure justice and transparency.