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Netflix caved to the Saudis and pulled Hasan Minhaj episode that criticized the government

The episode allegedly violated the kingdom’s local anti-cybercrime law

by Emma Ockerman
Jan 2 2019, 5:16pm

Netflix yanked an episode of its political comedy series “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” in Saudi Arabia last week after receiving a “valid legal request” from the Saudi government.

“This is just blatantly evil shit on White House letterhead,” Minhaj told the audience in the episode, referencing the Trump administration’s Nov. 20 announcement that it would stand by Saudi Arabia because “King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi.” Strong evidence suggests the prince directed the brutal murder and dismemberment of the Saudi-born, U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in early October.

The episode, titled “Saudi Arabia,” allegedly violated the kingdom’s local anti-cybercrime law, according to the Financial Times, which first reported the news. It also criticized the United States’ financial connections to Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s human rights abuses, and the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. The episode can still be viewed on the show’s official YouTube page and is available in other countries on Netflix.

"We strongly support artistic freedom and removed this episode only in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request — and to comply with local law,” a Netflix spokesperson said in an email statement to VICE News.

Minhaj, a Muslim American, said in an interview with The Atlantic in December that “there was a lot of discussion in my family about not doing” the episode on Saudi Arabia. And he feared for his life after the episode aired. Minhaj’s Netflix stand-up debut received a Peabody Award last year, and he was a speaker at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

“I’ve just come to personal and spiritual terms with what the repercussions are,” he told The Atlantic. He has not yet publicly commented on the episode being pulled in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis have denied any connection to Khashoggi’s Oct. 2 death, although U.S. intelligence agencies have found reason to believe otherwise: The CIA concluded in November that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the brutal killing of the writer, who often criticized the Saudi government.

"This is the most unbelievable cover story since Blake Shelton won ‘Sexiest Man Alive,’" Minhaj joked about the alleged Saudi cover-up.

Cover: Muslim-American comedian Hasan Minhaj cracks jokes for the audience after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio proclaimed May 10, 2018, as "Hasan Minhaj Day," at Gracie Mansion, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

This article originally appeared on VICE News US.