Netflix Takes Down Comedy Show After Saudis Complain

Hasan Minhaj slammed crown prince
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2019 1:37 AM CST
Updated Jan 2, 2019 6:47 AM CST
Netflix Bows to Saudi Demand, Pulls Episode of Comedy Show
In this image released by Netflix, comedian Hasan Minhaj appears in a scene from his Netflix special, "Homecoming King."   (Netflix via AP)

Netflix is being accused of bowing to the demands of "thin-skinned Saudi royals" after making an episode of an American comedian's show unavailable in the kingdom. In the episode of Hasan Minhaj's Patriot Act, the Muslim comedian strongly criticizes crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and other issues, the Guardian reports. The Saudis "said he left the consulate safely, then they used a body double to make it seem like he was alive," Minhaj, a former Daily Show correspondent, says in the pulled episode. "At one point they were saying he died in a fist fight, Jackie Chan-style. They went through so many explanations. The only one they didn't say was that Khashoggi died in a free solo rock-climbing accident."

Netflix said in a statement that it still strongly supports "artistic freedom worldwide," and it only pulled the Minhaj episode after it received a "valid legal request" from Saudi authorities. A Netflix spokesman tells CNN that the episode, which had been available in the kingdom since October, was only taken down after the service's lawyers determined that it had contravened local laws. A Human Rights Watch spokesperson says Netflix's promises to support artistic freedom are hollow if it bows to officials who "believe in no freedom for their citizens—not artistic, not political, not comedic." The episode is still available in the US and other regions. (Minhaj was the featured speaker at the 2017 White House Correspondents' Dinner, where he said President Trump can't take a joke.)

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