Mexican journalist shot dead in his car, motive unclear

By Jose Luis Gonzalez

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) -A Mexican photojournalist was killed in Ciudad Juarez in the early hours on Thursday while working as a ride-share driver, authorities and his employer said.

Ismael Villagomez, a photographer for newspaper El Heraldo de Juarez, was shot and killed 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 peace-time nations in the world for journalists, although investigators said they had not been able to immediately establish whether his killing was related to his profession.

"Once his work at El Heraldo was over, he worked through the (ride-hailing) platform inDrive," local prosecutor Carlos Manuel Salas told journalists. "He would normally work from the afternoon until 2 a.m., 3 a.m."

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

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

Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that Villagomez was killed due to his work as a journalist, said Salas.

"A journalist is a journalist 24 hours a day, whether or not they were working as something else meanwhile," Salas said, adding that Villagomez's cellphone was missing from the scene.

There was a documented attack in Mexico against the press recorded every 13 hours in 2022, according to advocacy group Article 19.

"We're concerned, sad, angry," said Jose Ramon Ortiz, director of the newspaper where Villagomez worked. "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."

(Reporting by Jose Luis Gonzalez; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Stephen Coates)