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News photographer shot dead in cartel-dominated Mexican border hub

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A photographer for a newspaper in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez, which has been dominated by drug cartels, was found shot to death, prosecutors said Thursday.

The body of news photographer Ismael Villagómez was found in the driver’s seat of a car just after midnight Thursday in Ciudad Juárez, a violence-plagued city across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Villagómez’s newspaper, the Heraldo de Juarez, said he was found dead in a car that he had registered to use for work for a ride-hailing app. Given low salaries, it is not uncommon for journalists in Mexico to hold down more than one job. The newspaper said his phone was not found at the scene.

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Ciudad Juárez has been dominated by drug cartels and their turf battles for almost two decades, and gangs often object to photos of their victims or their activities being published.

Carlos Manuel Salas, a prosecutor for the northern border state of Chihuahua, said authorities are investigating whether Villagómez had a fare at the time, or whether the killing was related to his work as a photographer.

The Committee to Protect Journalists made an urgent call for authorities to investigate the killing.

Mexican flag

A Mexican flag waves in front of The National Palace, the office of the president, in Mexico City’s main square, the Zocalo, at sunrise, April 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

His death was the fifth instance of a journalist being killed in Mexico so far in 2023.

In September, Jesús Gutiérrez, a journalist who ran a community Facebook news page, was killed in the northern Mexico border town of San Luis Rio Colorado when he was apparently caught in the cross-fire of an attack aimed at police.

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Prosecutors in the northern border state of Sonora said Gutiérrez was talking with the police officers, who were his neighbors, when they were hit by a hail of gunfire, killing one policeman and wounding the other three. They said Gutiérrez’ death was “collateral” to the attack on the police.

At least three other journalists have been killed so far this year in Mexico, which has become one of the deadliest places in the world for journalists outside a war zone.

In the past five years alone, the Committee to Protect Journalists documented the killings of at least 52 journalists in Mexico.

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Last year was the deadliest in recent memory for Mexican journalists, with 15 killed. That year, Mexico was one of the deadliest places in the world for journalists, second only to Ukraine.


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