The episode in question originally aired on October 28, and it hears Hasan Minhaj criticizing Saudi crown prince over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the country's war on Yemen. Netflix has now pulled it from its service in Saudi Arabia, citing a legal request from local authorities.
"We strongly support artistic freedom worldwide and removed this episode only in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal demand from the government — and to comply with local law," Netflix said in a statement.
Saudi officials claim that the episode of Patriot Act violates Article 6, Paragraph 1 of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law, which states, "production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers" is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine.
Netflix has been widely criticized for adhering to Saudi Arabia's censorship, though the Financial Times (who first reported the story) pointed out that the episode can still be viewed in its entirety on YouTube.
Minhaj himself has now responded to the situation, tweeting sarcastically, "Clearly, the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it trend online, and then leave it up on YouTube."
Clearly, the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it trend online, and then leave it up on YouTube.— Hasan Minhaj (@hasanminhaj) January 2, 2019
Let's not forget that the world's largest humanitarian crisis is happening in Yemen right now. Please donate: https://t.co/znMP8vyJma https://t.co/t2VUDhhIdB
See some of the other criticism below.
We should be really worried that Netflix pulled the "Saudi Arabia" episode from Patriot Act.— Fariha Róisín (@fariharoisin) January 2, 2019
Hmm maybe Netflix isn't going to like the sitcom I'm pitching that takes place in a wacky choppy Saudi consulate.— James Adomian (@JAdomian) January 2, 2019
Netflix's claim to support artistic freedom means nothing if it bows to demands of government officials who believe in no freedom for their citizens – not artistic, not political, not comedic. https://t.co/N24CY18kIK— Sarah Leah Whitson (@sarahleah1) January 1, 2019
Netflix pulls an episode of a TV show (Patriot Act) that was critical of Saudi Arabia at the request of Saudi Arabia.— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) January 2, 2019
One of Twitter's largest shareholders is Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud. His stake is larger than that of Jack Dorsey.
This is insanity.@Netflix pulls 'Patriot Act' episode in Saudi Arabia after it criticized official account of Khashoggi killing: https://t.co/BaYKmUxq60— Ali A. Rizvi (@aliamjadrizvi) January 2, 2019
Seems @hasanminhaj is doing something right. I hope this drives more people to watch his excellent show.
.@hasanminhaj 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 (@KarenAttiah) January 1, 2019
Quite outrageous that @netflix has pulled one of his episodes critical of Saudi Arabia.
Watch the clip in question below — via YouTube.