Amnesty at Edinburgh: Dangerously funny

Some things are dangerously funny. I think this Amnesty TV poem from Tim Key is one of them, and in fact, you can listen to this taster for our new Secret Comedy Podcast here, which is the other side of safe.

However, there are some places in the world where being a comedian is, in itself, dangerous.

Abdi Jeylani Malaq, a popular Somali comedian, was shot dead on Tuesday by two men armed with pistols as he entered his home in Mogadishu. Read this piece in the Independent for more info. It is thought likely that he was killed by al-Shabab, the Islamist armed group fighting against Somalia’s government, as he had recently mocked an al-Shabab commander and had received death threats from the group in the past.

Abdi Jeylani Malaq is the eighth person working in the media to be killed in a targeted attack in Somalia since December. It is a profoundly dangerous place to speak your mind, or to poke fun and, sadly, it is not the only place. 

For the last 15 years, Amnesty has been at the Edinburgh Festival, the largest arts festival in the world, where, along with comedians and festival-goers, Amnesty has worked to promote freedom of expression and highlight the case of someone who has been shut up for speaking out.

This year Amnesty is campaigning for jailed Burmese human rights defender and prisoner of conscience, U Myint Aye, who has dedicated much of his life to speaking out for human rights and democracy in Burma. Aged 61, he is currently serving a life sentence in prison, convicted after an unfair trial, on charges Amnesty believes to have been fabricated.  Amnesty considers him a prisoner of conscience.

We’re calling for the release of U Myint Aye and all remaining prisoners of conscience in Burma. For more information and to take action, visit

Most of the comedians we are working with are in danger of nothing worse than a good heckling, and the list of people who have signed up to Stand Up For Freedom this year, is pretty impressive. Indeed, Ed Byrne said of our flagship gig: “It’s like a taster menu with all the best bits from the top names’ shows.”

If you just see one thing at Edinburgh this year, then you would be going against the trend and spirit of the festival somewhat, but if you did then perhaps Stand Up For Freedom is the thing to go for given that it’s a one-stop-shop. We have also added to our programme with panel show: No Pressure to Be Funny and two weekly free live shows, where we will record the podcast, which you can subscribe to for free, here.

In uncharacteristically mischievous form, we will again pit the comics against the critics at the annual football match to top the programme off. Details of our entire line-up, and how to get tickets are here.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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