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Netflix drops episode critical of S. Arabia

January 02, 2019

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WASHINGTON: Netflix has removed an episode of a satirical comedy show that criticises Saudi Arabia after officials in the kingdom complained, raising new questions about the limits of free online expression, a report said on Tuesday.

The Financial Times reported that the streaming giant had taken down the episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj in Saudi Arabia after the kingdom’s Communications and Information Technology Commission said its cybercrime law.

In the episode, Minhaj — an American-born Muslim of Indian descent — lashed at Saudi Arabia after the killing of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

He specifically criticised Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and was also critical of the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

Karen Attiah, Khashoggi’s editor at The Washington Post, tweeted on Tuesday that Netflix’s action was “quite outrageous”. Requests for reaction to the Saudi information ministry and Netflix were not immediately returned.

But The Financial Times said Netflix had defended its decision, saying, “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.”

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019