Netflix has removed an episode of a show critical of Saudi Arabia following a complaint by the kingdom, the Financial Times (FT) reported.
The internet-streaming service removed the second episode of Patriotic Act with Hasan Minhaj in Saudi Arabia after authorities there said the comedy act violated the kingdom’s anti-cybercrime law, the report on Tuesday said.
In the episode, Minhaj, a comedian, criticised Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, as well as the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.
“Now would be a good time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia. And I mean that as a Muslim, and as an American,” the comedian said.
He went on to call the war in Yemen “the biggest tragedy of the MBS era”.
Netflix told the FT it removed the episode in Saudi Arabia last week when the country’s Communications and Information Technology Commission told the service the act violated Article six of the kingdom’s anti-cybercrime law.
The law bans the “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers”.
Such offences are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine not exceeding three million Saudi riyals ($800,000).
Defending its decision to the FT, Netflix 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.”
Saudi users can still watch the removed episode on the show’s official YouTube channel.
“Banning a comedy act that brings valid criticism of a government is a counterproductive measure and an affront to the freedom of expression that all citizens deserve, ” Jillian C York, a director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation told the FT.