Why Stacey Dooley changed her mind about reporting on Boko Haram

The documentary star from Luton spoke to The Big Issue about looking out for interviewees and delving into the terrifying world of Boko Haram

Hard-hitting documentary maker, TV presenter, Strictly Come Dancing champion – it’s Stacey Dooley’s world and we’re living in it.

But her job is not without its perils or risks, for her and for the people she interviews on camera, which she discussed in a recent sit down with The Big Issue.

She doesn’t underestimate the impact appearing on one of her shows could have on someone’s life. “Generally, people will only be filmed once in their life,” she explains. “And often it’s really chaotic. We’re following an enormous moment for them. If you’re dealing with cartels, criminals, paedophiles, that’s a totally different approach, but for victims and survivors, of course I think about that a lot. There is a duty of care.

“If they’ve agreed to be filmed they want to tell their story. Lots of people don’t understand the amount of work that goes into making a documentary. It might look like we’ve just rocked up and come across people. If not months, certainly we’ve had weeks of conversations with them. You’re very invested.

“That’s why it’s so frustrating when you see other people perhaps not behaving that way, because these relationships are so precious.”

Last time Dooley spoke to The Big Issue, she said one subject she would never cover was Boko Haram in Nigeria because of safety concerns. But now she has made a film about them.

We asked her: what changed?

“That was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done,” she said. “I just think Boko Haram get less airtime than Isis and they are as radical and as crazy and as much of a threat.

“Boko Haram tend to target schools. They’re always after young girls. Then when they capture these girls they convince them that the only way they’re going to secure that place in paradise is to go into a really busy market place and blow themselves up.

She recalled: “I was in a place called Maiduguri, which isn’t safe. It’s unpredictable. One night I was in bed and I could hear the military shelling. It’s really frightening but on the other hand there are girls who are too frightened to go to school because they don’t want to get kidnapped. It’s mad.”

Read the full interview in this week’s Big Issue, available from your local vendor.

Image: BBC