Comedian breaks silence after video streaming service blocked episode of his show Patriot Act for Saudi audiences.
According to Netcrunch, Netflix pulled an episode of “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” from its streaming service in Saudi Arabia after receiving a complaint from the kingdom. The removal was first reported by the Financial Times.
The episode, titled “Saudi Arabia,” centered around the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and criticizes Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. The Crown Prince has been implicated by the Central Intelligence Agency and Turkish officials in the planning of Khashoggi’s murder.
At the beginning of the episode, Minhaj, a Muslim-American whose show mixes political and cultural commentary with comedy, says “just a few months ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, AKA ‘MBS,’ was hailed as the reformer the Arab world needs, but the revelation of Khashoggi’s killing has shattered that image. It blows my mind it took the killing of a Washington Post journalist for everyone to go ‘oh, I guess he’s really not a reformer’ and meanwhile, every Muslim person you know was like ‘no shit, he’s the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. So now would be a good time for us to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”
He also called on tech companies to stop taking money from the kingdom, an investor in Uber and the SoftBank Vision Fund (among others).
Netflix told the Financial Times that it removed the episode from Saudi Arabia last week after receiving a request from the country’s Communications and Information Technology Commission that said it allegedly violated Saudi Arabia’s anti-cyber crime law.
Netflix said the commission cited Article 6 of the law, which states that “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers” is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine not exceeding SR3m ($800,000).” While ostensibly designed to protect internet users from cybercrimes, the Freedom House said in a 2016 report that the law contains clauses limiting freedom of expression.
“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 told the Financial Times. The newspaper noted that “Saudi Arabia” is available on the “Patriot Act’s” YouTube channel, where it is viewable by users in Saudi Arabia.
Hasan Minhaj has finally responded to Netflix’s decision to ban an episode of his show, the Patriot Act, in Saudi Arabia after a legal request from the Kingdom. 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.”
Sure, this probably may have spiced things up a bit but that’s just how Hasan Minhaj works and is known for.
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 which was banned in Saudi, 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.