Netflix has blocked an episode of the comedy show Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj from streaming in Saudi Arabia after the Saudi government complained that the episode — which is critical of the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman — violated its cybercrime laws.
In the episode first shown in October, Hasan was critical of the Saudi heir, delivering a monologue criticizing the Saudis’ account of what happened inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul in October, when the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed.
“Saudis were struggling to explain his disappearance: They said he left the consulate safely, then they used a body double to make it seem like he was alive. At one point they were saying he died in a fist fight, Jackie Chan-style. They went through so many explanations. The only one they didn’t say was that Khashoggi died in a free solo rock-climbing accident,” Hasan 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,” Netflix said in their official statement.
Netflix also disclosed that Saudi officials threatened it with prosecution under the Kingdom’s cybercrime law, which states “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 $800,000.
A representative from Netflix told CNN that the request to take it down had been limited to removal from Netflix’s site; it is still available globally on the show’s official YouTube channel.
Netflix’s move has been receiving serious outrage on social media. Minhaj is yet to comment on the takedown, but in an article in the Atlantic in early December he said that he wrestled with the implications – as a Muslim – of commenting on the story.
“There was a lot of discussion in my family about not doing it,” he said adding, “I’ve just come to personal and spiritual terms with what the repercussions are.”