Comedian Hasan Minhaj dedicated a recent episode of his Netflix show Patriot Act to skewering Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the criticism did not go unnoticed by Saudi officials.
The government reportedly complained to Netflix that the episode violated the kingdom’s anti-cyber crime law, according to the Financial Times. In response, Netflix removed the episode from the streaming platform in Saudi Arabia. The episode can apparently still be viewed by Saudi users on the show’s official YouTube channel.
“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 said in a statement to the Financial Times.
The episode, which aired in October and is titled “Saudi Arabia,” took on the crown prince in the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. The CIA has determined that Prince Salman ordered Khashoggi’s death.
“Now would be a good time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Minhaj said. “And I mean that as a Muslim and as an American.”
Minhaj then rattles off the most important things the average viewer might want to know about Saudi Arabia’s history, including that American presidents often overlook the country’s transgressions because it’s a key ally in the Middle East.
Quite outrageous that @netflix has pulled one of his episodes critical of Saudi Arabia.
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) January 1, 2019
“Saudi Arabia was basically the boy band manager of 9/11,” Minhaj joked, referencing how the country issued passports to the men who hijacked planes in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. “They didn’t write the songs, but they helped the group get together.”
On the subject of Prince Salman, Minhaj didn’t hold back.
“He’s been getting away with autocratic shit like this for years,” Minhaj said of the prince’s role in Khashoggi’s murder, “with almost no blowback from the international community.”
Netflix’s decision to remove the episode was met with outrage by proponents of free speech.
“Banning a comedy act that brings valid criticism of a government is a counterproductive measure and an affront to the freedom of expression that all citizens deserve,” Jillian C. York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Financial Times.