In an unprecedented move by Netflix, the streaming giant has removed an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj in Saudi Arabia after the country’s government sent a takedown request last month, The Financial Times reports. The episode, which originally aired in October, finds the host critiquing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, as well as the country’s relationship with the United States. “Now would be a good time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia. And I mean that as a Muslim, and as an American,” Minhaj says at the top of the episode.
The episode, which is still streaming on Netflix outside of Saudi Arabia and, as of this writing, still available in full on YouTube, was filmed in the wake of the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who intelligence officials believe was killed on orders from the crowned prince. In the episode, Minhaj also touches on the ongoing war in Yemen and the financial influence Saudi Arabia wields over American tech companies.
Netflix stands by its decision, saying it’s simply complying to the country’s local laws. “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,” they said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia was named by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the third most censored country in the world. The committee also highlights how journalists have been suppressed more and more under the reign of Prince Mohammed, who the government has attempted to posit as an agent of progressive change and reform. Per The New York Times, the law in question prohibits the “production, preparation, transmission or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals and privacy” on the internet. The resonance here is deeply felt in an era where the U.S. president routinely decries his critics in the press as “the enemy of the people.”
“There was a lot of discussion in my family about not doing it,” Minhaj said of the episode in a December interview with The Atlantic. “I’ve just come to personal and spiritual terms with what the repercussions are.”
Minhaj has yet to respond.