Netflix criticized for pulling satire episode in Saudi

Episode of Hasan Minhaj's Patriot Act, critical of Saudi leader, says original praise undue

Netflix criticized for pulling satire episode in Saudi

Streaming giant Netflix faced criticism Wednesday for its decision to remove an episode of a comedy show in Saudi Arabia that satirized Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The episode of Hasan Minhaj's Patriot Act lambasts bin Salman, arguing original praise heaped on the Saudi leader was misplaced and undue -- a fact that came to international attention, according to Minhaj, with the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

"The revelations about Khashoggi’s killing have shattered that image and it blows my mind that it took the killing of a Washington Post journalist for everyone to go: ‘Oh I guess he’s not really a reformer,’" Minhaj said in an 18-minute monologue that has been posted to YouTube.

"Meanwhile every Muslim person you know was going yeah, no sh**. He's the crown prince of Saudi Arabia," he added.

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives shortly after he entered the country's consulate in Istanbul Oct. 2.

Riyadh offered various, conflicting narratives to explain his disappearance before acknowledging he was murdered in the diplomatic building, seeking to blame his death on a botched rendition operation being carried out by rogue agents.

But that explanation has been roundly rejected outside of the Kingdom, as pressure has mounted for bin Salman, whom many believe had to have signed off on Khashoggi's killing, to be held to account.

"This is the most unbelievable cover story since Blake Shelton won sexiest man alive," Minhaj said, referring to the singer who won the annual honor from People magazine in 2017.

Nextflix's decision to pull the episode of Minhaj's show in Saudi Arabia, after the Saudi government warned it is in violation of a local cyber crime law, elicited widespread criticism.

"[email protected] of @patriotact has been a strong, honest and (funny) voice challenging Saudi Arabia + Mohammed bin Salman in the wake of #khashoggi’s murder. He brought awareness about Yemen," Karen Attiah, Khashoggi's former editor at the Washington Post, wrote on Twitter. "Quite outrageous that @netflix has pulled one of his episodes critical of Saudi Arabia."

Amnesty International further derided the decision as "further proof of a relentless crackdown on freedom of expression in the Kingdom.

"By bowing to the Saudi Arabian authorities’ demands, Netflix is in danger of facilitating the Kingdom’s zero-tolerance policy on freedom of expression and assisting the authorities in denying people’s right to freely access information," Samah Hadid, Amnesty's director of Middle East campaigns, said in a statement.

The episode remains available outside of the Kingdom.