Netflix pulls down 'Patriot Act' episode criticizing MbS, draws ire
American streaming giant Netflix has pulled down an episode of Patriot Act, hosted by stand-up comedian Hasan Minhaj, for viewers in Saudi Arabia as it criticized crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). Saudi Arabia's Communications and Information Technology Commission alleged the episode violated cybercrime law against "material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy." Netflix accepted their demand, sparking outrage.
In wake of Khashoggi murder, Hasan questioned Saudi Arabia
Titled Saudi Arabia, the episode streamed on October 28 last year, and it qualifies as one of Hasan's best works. The comedian of Indian descent addressed the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate of Istanbul, Turkey. Laced with facts and humor, Hasan ripped into the Kingdom and specifically MbS, who was accused of sanctioning the hit job.
Hasan made fun of the Kingdom's 'explanations'
Hasan, a Muslim himself, started by explaining the importance of the Kingdom to the Islamic community. After establishing facts related to Mecca and other rituals, Hasan shed light on the botched up claims of the Kingdom. He said the Saudis used a body double to prove Khashoggi left the building. Days later, the Kingdom accepted what the world knew: Khashoggi was dead.
Hasan pointed out the excuses were unbelievable
"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 and the audience laughed.
The Yemen crisis was spoken about too
Not restricting the episode to Khashoggi murder, Hasan dug deeper. He mentioned how Saudi royals were imprisoned, allegedly at the orders of MbS, and touched upon the Yemen crisis. Apart from blaming MbS squarely for the loss of lives in Yemen, Hasan also questioned President of United States Donald Trump's stand. But his harsh words weren't only meant for world leaders. He asked tech giants to stop relying on Saudi money.
Netflix says it pulled down episode after valid request
By the end of the 27-minute episode, 33-year-old Hasan educated masses about MbS, Yemen crisis and a lot more. But the Kingdom found the episode flouted some rules and asked Netflix to pull it down. Notably, the episode is still available on YouTube in the Kingdom. About the decision, Netflix said it supported artistic freedom but removed episode after receiving a 'valid request'.
People are not happy with Netflix's decision
Netflix's decision invited ire, for obvious reasons. Karen Attiah, Khashoggi's editor at WaPo, opined Netflix shouldn't have caved in to pressure. "He brought awareness about Yemen. Quite outrageous that Netflix has pulled one of his episodes critical of Saudi Arabia," she tweeted. Human Rights Watch said artists, whose work is on Netflix should be angry, while adding Saudi isn't interested in its citizens' democratic rights.