Netflix pulls episode of comedy show mocking Saudi crown prince

Image: President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018. Copyright Mandel Ngan
Copyright Mandel Ngan
By Saphora Smith with NBC News World News
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The comedian criticized the country's crown prince over the Khashoggi murder. "Saudi Arabia was basically the boy band manager of 9/11," he also joked.


Netflix has removed a satirical comedy show from its service in Saudi Arabia following a complaint from authorities in Riyadh.

The streaming service took down an episode of "Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj" which was critical of the kingdom's rulers following the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Hasan Minhaj.
Hasan Minhaj.Slaven Vlasic

Netflix said it had been told the episode breached Saudi Arabia's anti-cybercrime law, which states that anyone who produces, prepares or transmits material "impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy" will be subject to imprisonment for a period of up to five years and/or a fine of up to $799,850.

It was unclear which episode of the show had been pulled, but Netflix said it been available since October.

In one installment of the series, Minhaj criticizes Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who has been blamed by the U.S. Senate for being responsible for Khashoggi's death in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year.

"It blows my mind that it took the killing of a Washington Post journalist for everyone to go, 'Oh, I guess he's really not a reformer,'" Minhaj said, referring to the royal who is widely known as MBS. "Meanwhile, every Muslim person you know was like, 'Yeah, no s---, he's the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.'"

Minhaj goes on to raise questions about Washington's relationship with Riyadh, which he said needs to be reassessed.

"Saudi Arabia was basically the boy band manager of 9/11," he said, referring to the fact that many of the September 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens.

Netflix did not confirm which episode it had taken down but said it did so to comply with local law.

"We strongly support artistic freedom and removed this episode only in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal demand," a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement.

Netflix is not the only media giant to encounter difficulties navigating the issue of censorship abroad in recent months. Google came under fire from rights groups and its employees in November for designing a censored search engine for the Chinese government.

In an open letter to their employer, Google workers urged the company to drop the project known as Dragonfly and said they no longer believed the company was "willing to place its values above its profits."

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