Hasan Minhaj took to Twitter to make a satirical response to Netflix’s decision to pull an episode of his show “Patriot Act” in Saudi Arabia.
“Clearly, the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it trend online, and then leave it up on YouTube,” the U.S. comedian said in a Twitter post Wednesday.
An episode of the show blasting Saudi Arabia over the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the country’s role in the Yemen civil war was taken down by Netflix last week.
The U.S. streaming giant removed it after the Saudi government made a legal request, alleging the content violated anti-cybercrime rules. Article 6 of Saudi Arabia’s anti-cybercrime law prohibits the “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy” on the internet.
Netflix maintains the decision was taken following a “valid legal request” from the Kingdom to remove the episode. It stressed that its position was consistent with how other U.S.-based firms operate. The episode can still be viewed in Saudi Arabia via YouTube.
The decision drew outrage from Karen Attiah, Khashoggi’s former editor at the Post, and Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch. Attiah slammed the move as “quite outrageous,” while Whitson said “Netflix’s claim to support artistic freedom means nothing if it bows to demands of government officials who believe in no freedom for their citizens.”
In the episode, entitled “Saudi Arabia,” Minhaj took aim at Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, who many have hailed as a reformer due to his plan to steer Saudi Arabia away from oil dependency and diversify its economy.
“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.
Minhaj, known for his role as senior correspondent for “The Daily Show,” took up his new gig with Netflix last year. “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” is a cultural and political satire that has covered everything from Silicon Valley and freedom of speech to immigration in America and affirmative action.
Saudi Arabia was enveloped in controversy late last year following the death of Khashoggi. The Kingdom initially denied involvement in his murder, only to later admit it was “premeditated” and carried out by rogue agents.
The country denies a CIA assessment that the Saudi crown prince had ordered Khashoggi’s death. It has charged 11 people with the murder.
Saudi Arabia is ranked 169th out of a list of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ world press freedom index. The organization says on its website: “The level of self-censorship is extremely high and the Internet is the only space where freely-reported information and views may be able to circulate, albeit at great risk to the citizen-journalists who post online.”