Luca Zislin | Editor
Hasan Minhaj’s new Netflix show, Patriot Act, takes a comedic approach through seven episodes from topics spanning from streetwear brand Supreme to affirmative action. Well, except in Saudi Arabia where one episode about - you guessed it - Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was pulled in early January.
This occurred just a month after the Senate unanimously passed a resolution holding the crown prince responsible for the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. In a humorous monologue in the episode titled Saudi Arabia, Minhaj attacks Salman’s reputation as a reformer, joking “the only thing that he’s modernizing is the Saudi dictatorship.”
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alerted Netflix that the company had violated Saudi cybercrime laws, which essentially prohibit political dissent. The specific law cited, Article 6 of Acts against the Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability of Computer, Data and Systems, 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” can result in up to five years of imprisonment or up to 3 million riyals fined (roughly $800,000).
The Saudi Crown has a long history of restricting American entertainment media. In 2005, two episodes of the animated show American Dad! were banned for their depiction of Saudi Arabia. After the ban on public cinemas was revoked after 39 years in 2018, a 40-second scene in Black Panther that showed characters kissing was banned.
In an official statement, Netflix stated, “We strongly support artistic freedom and removed this episode only in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal demand from the government—and to comply with local law.” The episode is still available in the United States and on in the internet, on sites like YouTube.
Should Netflix have stood its ground? Let us know in the comments.
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