Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Shadid Curriculum: Inside Yemen’s Secret Prisons

Associated Press reporters and 2019 Shadid Award finalists Maggie Michael, Maad al-Zikry and Nariman El-Mofty.

Throughout 2018, a team of three journalists from The Associated Press trekked across Yemen, investigating the atrocities and catastrophes spawned by the country’s grinding war…

The Importance of Anonymity

Maggie Michael, Nariman El-Mofty and Maad al-Zikry of the Associated Press spent much of 2018 reporting on the atrocities occurring during the Yemeni Civil War. Much of their investigation centered around interviews with those most impacted by the conflict.

One story from the series documents letters and drawings smuggled from inside a prison in Yemen’s capital of Aden. Detainees’ drawings on plastic plates with blue ink pens detailed the forms of torture and abuse commonplace in the prison.

Other pieces focused on interviews with child soldiers who spoke to the Houthi rebels’ methods of recruitment and training, or former inmates captured and tortured by the rebels for associating with enemy forces.


Q1: How do distance and language barriers affect a journalist’s ability to protect sources’ anonymity?

Q2: Many of the stories detail severe punishment and torture for as little as affiliating with enemy forces. Is there ever a point where the potential consequences of accidentally harming a source outweigh the benefits of reporting? 

Q3: If a potential source wanted to go on the record, but doing so would likely place them in imminent danger, does the journalist have an obligation to turn the source away? Why or why not?