Netflix Drops Satire Episode From Comedian Hasan Minhaj's Show That Is Critical Of Saudi Arabia

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Netflix on Tuesday removed an episode that satirically denounces Saudi Arabia and the crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, after receiving complaints from the officials in the Kingdom saying it violated a Saudi anti-cybercrime law, drawing a question on the freedom of expression in the online medium.

Written By Aishwaria Sonavane | Mumbai | Updated On:

Netflix on Tuesday removed an episode that satirically denounces Saudi Arabia and the crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, after receiving complaints from the officials in the Kingdom saying it violated a Saudi anti-cybercrime law, drawing a question on the freedom of expression in the online medium.

The episode of 'Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj', the American-born Muslim comedian critisises Saudi Arabia following the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, that even led to global outrage. 

In his gig, the comedian largely denounces the Crown Prince MbS along with being critical of the Saudi-led military interventions in Yemen, pushing the country in the darkest times. 

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"We strongly support artistic freedom worldwide and removed this episode only in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request -- and to comply with local law," a Netflix spokeswoman said in a statement.

A British newspaper said Netflix's action came after the kingdom's Communications and Information Technology Commission said the episode violated the cybercrime law.

In December, the US Senate approved two symbolic resolutions blaming Prince Mohammed for the killing of Khashoggi, after intelligence reports pointed in that direction, and urging an end to US participation in the Yemen War.

Karen Attiah, Khashoggi's editor at The Washington Post, who has also been spearheading the murder of Khashoggi, pushing for justice and keeping his voice alive, said Netflix's action was "quite outrageous." 

The Saudi Information Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The episode can still be seen in other parts of the world -- and in Saudi Arabia on YouTube, but has been taken down from the content streaming website.

Online platforms and tech companies face increasing scrutiny and growing public skepticism in the face of controversies about data sharing and the steady erosion of privacy.

In October, the press freedom watchdog group Reporters Without Borders ranked Saudi Arabia as 169th out of 180 countries for press freedom, adding that "it will very probably fall even lower in the 2019 index because of the gravity of the violence and abuses of all kinds against journalists." 

After releasing its annual study of global internet freedom, another watchdog, Freedom House, said in November that Saudi Arabia was among those employing "troll armies" to manipulate social media and in many cases drown out the voices of dissidents.

Minhaj, 33, has seen his profile rise steadily. His routines combine personal history and pointed political commentary wrapped in edgy topical humour.

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In 2014, he became a senior correspondent on Comedy Central's popular "The Daily Show," and in 2017 was the featured speaker at the White House Correspondents' dinner. 

"Patriot Act" debuted in October 2018. 

(With inputs from PTI) 

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