UPDATE: Hasan Minhaj commented on his pulled Patriot Act episode via Twitter Wednesday. “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.” Clearly, he’s not pleased with Netflix’s decision.
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.
— Hasan Minhaj (@hasanminhaj) January 2, 2019
Netflix surprised everyone on New Year’s Day by pulling an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj. After the Saudi Arabian government complained how a particular episode cast the kingdom in a negative light, the streaming giant blocked access to the episode within Saudi Arabia’s borders.
The episode in question focused on the controversial killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “Now would be a good time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” said host Hasan Minhaj in the episode. “And I mean that as a Muslim, and as an American.”
“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,” Netflix announced in a statement. The entertainment platform defended its action by citing a Saudi law that states “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers” is a crime. The statue punishes the offense with a maximum of five years in prison and fines up to $800,000.
The vague law is an obvious way for the government to limit free speech, according to critics. The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accused of ordering the murder of Khashoggi because of his writing critical of the Crown Prince. The murder made news as many took it as a sign that journalists’ lives are in danger in the Middle Eastern country.
We reached out to Hasan Minhaj for comment and have yet to hear back.