Comedian Hasan Minhaj dedicated a recent episode of his Netflix show Patriot Act to skewering Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the criticism did not go unnoticed by Saudi officials. The government reportedly complained to Netflix that the episode violated the kingdom's anti-cyber crime law, according to the Financial Times. In response, Netflix removed the episode from the streaming platform in Saudi Arabia. The episode can apparently still be viewed by Saudi users on the show's official YouTube channel. "We strongly support artistic freedom worldwide and only removed this episode in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request -- and to comply with local law," Netflix said in a statement to the Financial Times.
The second episode of Patriot Act, with US comedian Hasan Minhaj, was removed following an official complaint that it had violated Saudi anti-cybercrime law. Netflix confirmed the move to the UK's Financial Times (FT) newspaper. It said that it strongly supported artistic freedom but had to comply with local law. Despite the move, people in Saudi Arabia can still watch the episode on the show's YouTube channel. In the episode that was removed, Minhaj criticises Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.
American comic Hasan Minhaj has responded to Netflix's decision to ban an episode of his show, the Patriot Act, in Saudi Arabia. In a post on Twitter on Wednesday, the former Daily Show correspondent joked that the ban would be counterproductive. "Clearly, the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it trend online, and then leave it up on YouTube," Minhaj wrote, adding: "Let's not forget that the world's largest humanitarian crisis is happening in Yemen right now." Clearly, the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it trend online, and then leave it up on YouTube. Let's not forget that the world's largest humanitarian crisis is happening in Yemen right now.
When news broke on New Years Day that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had censored an episode of the Netflix series Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj that's critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, it wasn't a surprise. Saudi Arabia has a long history of censorship and human rights abuses, and the anti-cybercrime law the kingdom says the episode violated dates back to 2007. And though the rise of bin Salman was greeted by the US and Silicon Valley with enthusiasm, his reforms (women are finally allowed to drive) have come alongside continued abuses (hundreds of women "disappeared" for their activism). But the Netflix incident is also indicative of the pressures tech companies face beyond Saudi Arabia amid a global trend toward digital authoritarianism that shows no sign of slowing. Minhaj, an American comedian, devoted an episode of his show to the Saudi regime on October 28, weeks after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its embassy in Istanbul.