Saudi Arabia: censorship of Netflix is further proof of ongoing crackdown

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has overseen a wide crackdown in Saudi Arabia © FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images

Netflix has defended decision to pull episode of Patriot Act show, saying it had to ‘comply with local law’ 

‘Netflix is in danger of facilitating the Kingdom’s zero-tolerance policy on freedom of expression’ - Samah Hadid

Responding to news that the US media company Netflix have removed an episode from the Patriot Act comedy show in Saudi Arabia after Saudi officials complained that it violated cyber-crime laws, Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Campaigns Director, said:

“Saudi Arabia’s censorship of Netflix using a cyber-crime law comes as no surprise and is further proof of a relentless crackdown on freedom of expression in the Kingdom.

“Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came to power in June 2017, many outspoken human rights defenders, activists and critics have been arbitrarily detained or unjustly sentenced to lengthy prison terms simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression. 

“The authorities have previously used anti cyber-crime laws to silence dissidents, creating an environment of fear for those who dare to speak up in Saudi Arabia.

“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.”

‘Complying with local law’

Netflix removed an episode of the satirical comedy programme Patriot Act which was critical of the country’s authorities after officials from the Kingdom complained. In the programme, US comedian Hasan Minhaj is critical of the Saudi Crown Prince in a monologue that discussed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Kingdom’s account of what happened inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Saudi telecoms regulator had cited a cyber-crime law that states that “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers” is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine.

In a statement, Netflix said: 

“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.”

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