In a move that will surely fuel concerns over freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, Netflix decided to pull an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj — one critical of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman — from the kingdom after receiving a “valid” legal complaint.
The episode, titled “Saudi Arabia,” was only taken down from the platform in Saudi Arabia, where it had aired since its initial October release. However, it remains available online through YouTube. (Shown below.)
“We strongly support artistic freedom worldwide and removed this episode only in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request — and to comply with local law,” a spokesperson for Netflix said in a statement to EW.
In the episode, released in October, Minhaj begins by addressing the killing and dismembering of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia prosecutors claim a team of Saudi agents, initially sent to Istanbul to bring Khashoggi home, committed the killing. This contradicts Turkey’s findings, which claim it was a premeditated act hailing from “the highest levels of the Saudi government.”
“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 says of Salman, referring to him as MBS. “Meanwhile, every Muslim person you know was like, ‘Yeah, no s—. He’s the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.’ So now would be a good time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia — and I mean that as a Muslim and as an American.”
Minhaj further calls Saudi Arabia “the boy band manager of 9/11” who “didn’t write the songs” but “helped get the group together.” He later argues how Salman “has been getting away with autocratic s—” like Khashoggi’s murder “for years with almost no blowback from the international community.”
Minhaj isn’t the first late-night host to criticize Saudi Arabia, as well as U.S. ties to the kingdom. John Oliver, over at HBO’s Last Week Tonight, did just that in an October episode.
Netflix received a request to take down Patriot Act episode from the Saudi Arabian government, which allegedly stated it violated the kingdom’s anti-cybercrime law, according to The Financial Times. Netflix is not the first company to get this kind of takedown, but the streaming service assessed the situation and found the complaint valid enough to remove, EW has learned.
The story comes as a report by the CIA has led several Republican officials to maintain there is “zero question” the Crown Prince was behind the killing.
A rep for Minhaj did not respond to EW’s request for comment.