Saudi Arabia's censorship of Netflix 'further proof of ongoing crackdown'

By agency reporter
January 3, 2019

The US media company Netflix has removed an episode from the Patriot Act comedy show in Saudi Arabia after Saudi officials complained that it violated cyber-crime laws. Responding to the news, 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.”

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.”

* Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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