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.
What was Netflix really thinking when it caved to Saudi pressure and yanked an episode of the comedian Hasan Minhaj's new show, "Patriot Act," which featured a monologue criticizing a Saudi Arabian royal? Minhaj's monologue was hardly groundbreaking--or all that consequential--given the global fury over the assassination of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi hit squad. The Senate passed a unanimous resolution last month holding the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, responsible for the premeditated murder of the journalist. The C.I.A. also concluded with "high confidence" that the prince, who is the de-facto ruler of the desert kingdom, ordered the killing. The Turkish government leaked an intelligence tape that captured Khashoggi's desperate final struggle, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, his execution, and the grisly sounds of a bone saw dismembering his body.
Netflix has removed an episode of a show critical of Saudi Arabia following a complaint by the kingdom, the Financial Times (FT) reported. The internet-streaming service removed the second episode of Patriotic Act with Hasan Minhaj in Saudi Arabia after authorities there said the comedy act violated the kingdom's anti-cyber crime law, the report on Tuesday said. "Now would be a good time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia. And I mean that as a Muslim, and as an American," the comedian said. He went on to call the war in Yemen "the biggest tragedy of the MBS era".
Netflix is facing criticism after the streaming giant blocked an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj at the demands of the Saudi Arabian government. The episode criticizes Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, urged the U.S. to reconsider its longstanding support of the country, and called out Saudi Arabia for the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Netflix removed the episode from its service in Saudi Arabia last week after receiving a takedown request from the Saudi government's Communications and Information Technology Commission. The request cited Saudi Arabia's anti-cybercrime laws, which prohibit the "production, preparation, transmission or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals and privacy" on the internet. In a statement to NPR, a Netflix spokesperson said, "We strongly support artistic freedom and removed this episode only in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request--and to comply with local law."
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.