Netflix has blocked an episode of its show “Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj” from streaming in Saudi Arabia after the Saudi government complained the episode — which is critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — violated its cybercrime laws.
In the episode, first shown in October, Minhaj critiques the United States’ long-standing relationship with Saudi Arabia after the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Now would be a good time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Minhaj said, “and I mean that as a Muslim and an American.”
After receiving a takedown request last month from the Saudi government’s Communications and Information Technology Commission, Netflix removed the episode from viewing in Saudi Arabia last week.
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In a statement, Netflix defended its decision: “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.”
The episode remains available to Netflix customers elsewhere in the world, and it can also be seen by viewers in Saudi Arabia through the show’s YouTube channel, according to The Financial Times.
The “Patriot Act” episode appears to be the only program the Saudi government has asked Netflix to block there.
In an interview published in The Atlantic last month, Minhaj spoke of the fear he felt after creating the episode.
“There was a lot of discussion in my family about not doing it,” he said in the interview. “I’ve just come to personal and spiritual terms with what the repercussions are.”
Article 6 of the Saudi anti-cybercrime law, which was cited by the Saudi commission in its request to Netflix, prohibits the “production, preparation, transmission or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals and privacy” on the internet. Journalism advocates call it an instrument for the Saudi government to censor virtually any speech online.