Netflix drops comedy show criticizing Saudi Arabia

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: January 2, 2019

The American comedian Hasan Minhaj was critical of the Saudi heir in an episode of the standup show Patriot Act. He delivered a monologue mocking the Saudi royalty’s cover-up stories with regards to Kashoggi’s murder in the country’s consulate in Turkey, deep financial and political ties between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, the country's involvement in Yemen and crackdowns on women's rights advocates.


Saudi Arabia
 
Washington: Netflix has dropped an episode from the comedy show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj that was critical of the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s alleged role in the killing after a complaint by the kingdom’s rulers, Financial Times reported.
 
“Netflix confirmed that it had removed the episode in Saudi Arabia last week, after the country’s Communications and Information Technology Commission made a request to take it down because it allegedly violated the kingdom’s anti-cybercrime law,” Financial Times reported.
 
“Saudi Arabia has become an influential player in the technology and entertainment sectors through big investments by its sovereign wealth fund, which directly owns stakes in companies such as Uber and many other groups indirectly through its backing of Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund,” Minhaj said. Later in the removed episode, he criticised Silicon Valley for ‘swimming in Saudi cash’ and urged tech companies to stop taking investment from the kingdom.
 
In a statement to Financial Times, Netflix said, “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 is still available on the official Netflix channel on YouTube.
 
It added that the Saudi telecoms regulator cited a cyber-crime law that 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).
 
The American comedian Hasan Minhaj was critical of the Saudi heir in an episode of the standup show Patriot Act. He delivered a monologue mocking the Saudi royalty’s cover-up stories with regards to Kashoggi’s murder in the country’s consulate in Turkey, deep financial and political ties between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, the country's involvement in Yemen and crackdowns on women's rights advocates.
 
“Now would be a good time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia. And I mean that as a Muslim and as an American,” says Minhaj in the episode titled “Saudi Arabia.”
 
“We access God through Saudi Arabia, a country I feel does not represent our values,” he says, explaining how problematic it is to pray facing Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, in Saudi Arabia.
 
The episode was only dropped from Netflix in Saudi Arabia and is still available in other parts of the world. It can be seen in Saudi Arabia on YouTube.
 
It was interesting to note that the audience went completely silent when Minhaj observed that the crown prince MBS was a close second to Obama when it came to bombings.


 
Karen Attiah, Khashoggi’s editor at the Washington Post, said that it was outrageous that Netflix had caved to pressure from Saudi Arabia.


 
“Hasan Minhaj of Patriot Act has been a strong, honest and (funny) voice challenging Saudi Arabia + Mohammed bin Salman in the wake of #khashoggi’s murder,” she tweeted. “He brought awareness about Yemen. Quite outrageous that Netflix has pulled one of his episodes critical of Saudi Arabia.


 
The NGO Reporters Without Borders in October ranked Saudi Arabia 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”.


 

In an interview with The Atlantic about his show, Minhaj said he and his family discussed the potential repercussions of his criticism of the Saudi government, and that he now has fears about his own safety.
 
"There was a lot of discussion in my family about not doing it. I've just come to personal and spiritual terms with what the repercussions are," he said.