Netflix Removes ‘Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj’ Episode in Saudi Arabia
An episode of Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj that questioned Saudi Arabia’s role in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and criticized Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has been removed from Netflix only in Saudi Arabia. The episode is available in other countries as well as the series’ YouTube page, which is still accessible in Saudi Arabia, NPR reports. A Netflix spokesperson told Reuters the Saudi government has not yet sought to remove those clips from YouTube.
On Monday, Netflix said it removed the episode after several weeks because the show broke an anti-cyber crime law in the Middle Eastern country barring the “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers.”
In a statement to Rolling Stone, Netflix 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.”
During the episode, Minhaj provided a quick overview of the Khashoggi killing, which the Saudi government initially denied before confessing to the journalist’s death by saying it was “an accident after a fistfight.”
“This is the most unbelievable cover story since Blake Shelton won Sexiest Man Alive. Are you kidding me? He’s the fourth sexiest judge on The Voice,” Minhaj said, pinning Khashoggi’s death firmly bin Salman’s regime.
According to the New York Times, journalist activists labeled Saudi Arabia’s anti-cyber crime law as an “all-encompassing instrument for the Saudi government to censor virtually any speech online.”
“The authorities have previously used anti cyber-crime laws to silence dissidents, creating an environment of fear for those who dare to speak up in Saudi Arabia,” Amnesty’s Middle East director of campaigns Samah Hadid said in a statement to Reuters.
“By bowing to the Saudi Arabian authorities’ demands, Netflix is in danger of facilitating the Kingdom’s zero-tolerance policy on freedom of expression and assisting the authorities in denying people’s right to freely access information.”
This isn’t the first time Netflix has pulled episodes within a foreign nation following a request by the government: The streaming service previously pulled Disjointed, Cooking on High and The Legend of 420 in Singapore due to each series’ positive portrayal of drug use.