Netflix pulls episode of Hasan Minhaj’s comedy show critical of Saudi Arabia after legal threat from regime

Netflix has yanked an episode of comedy show “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” in Saudi Arabia in which the comedian criticizes the U.S.’s ties to the regime and mocked the Saudis’ attempts to murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Netflix removed the single episode from its service in Saudi Arabia last week. It was one of the first two “Patriot Act” episodes to debut worldwide Oct. 28. Netflix received a takedown request last month from the Saudi regime’s Communications and Information Technology Commission, citing the content as a violation of its cybercrime laws.

In a statement, the streamer defended the decision to pull the segment. “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. The news was first reported by the Financial Times.

The 27-minute episode, titled “Saudi Arabia,” remains available on Netflix in all other territories. In addition, the bulk of the segment remains available on worldwide on Netflix’s YouTube channel for the show.

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Hasan Minhaj out and about
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Hasan Minhaj out and about
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 12: Hasan Minhaj attends Friends of The Saban Community Clinic's 42nd Annual Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 12, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 13: Hasan Minhaj attends opening night of 'To Kill A Mocking Bird' at the Shubert Theatre on December 13, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for 'To Kill A Mockingbird')
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 12: Hasan Minhaj attends Friends Of The Saban Community Clinic's 42nd Annual Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 12, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 7: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and guest Hasan Minhaj during Tuesday's November 6, 2018 live show. (Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: 70th ANNUAL PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS -- Pictured: Hasan Minhaj arrives to the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2018. NUP_184216 (Photo by Christopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 25: Comedian Hasan Minhaj attends Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee - New York Event at Classic Car Club Manhattan on June 25, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Netflix)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 02: Hasan Minhaj attends Teen Vogue Summit 2018: #TurnUp - Day 2 at The New School on June 2, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Teen Vogue)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 19: Comedian Hasan Minhaj poses with a Peabody Award at The 77th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street on May 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for Peabody)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 05: Comedian Hasan Minhaj attends the Todd Snyder fashion show during New York Fashion Week at Pier 59 on February 5, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: (L-R) Padma Lakshmi and Hasan Minhaj attend Shanti Bhavan's 20 Anniversary Gala on November 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Shanti Bhavan)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 07: Comedian Hasan Minhaj attends the 11th Annual Stand Up for Heroes at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 07: Hasan Minhaj attends the 11th Annual Stand Up for Heroes at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Comedian Hasan Minhaj attends the Natural Resources Defense Council's 'NRDC's Night of Comedy' Benefit with Seth Meyers, John Oliver, George Lopez, Mike Birbiglia and Hasan Minhaj on November 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for The Natural Resources Defense Council)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 17: Actor Hasan Minhaj poses on the red carpet during the 2017 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game as part of 2017 All-Star Weekend at the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome on February 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Michelle Farsi/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 07: Actor/comedian Hasan Minhaj attends 'Norman Lear Just Another Version of You' New York premiere at Walter Reade Theater on July 7, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 17: Hasan Minhaj #7 of the West Team shoots the ball against the East Team during the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game as a part of 2017 All-Star Weekend at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 15: Hasan Minhaj performs on stage at The Buckhead Theatre on October 15, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images)
American comedian and actor Hasan Minhaj performs at the 'Comedy Central presents: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Stand-Up in the Park' show at Central Park SummerStage, New York, New York, June 26, 2016. (Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 21: Actor Hasan Minhaj attends The 75th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street on May 20, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Peabody Awards )
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 22: The Daily Show Correspondent Hasan Minhaj attends Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Trevor Noah Premiere Party Event on October 22, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Actor Hasan Minhaj attends the NYMag and The Cut fashion week party at The Bowery Hotel on September 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for New York Magazine)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: 'The Daily Show with Trevor Noah' Correspondent Hasan Minhaj attends the Comedy Central Emmys after party at Boulevard3 on September 20, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Comedy Central)
CULVER CITY, CA - APRIL 14: Actor Hasan Minhaj arrives at the 2013 MTV Movie Awards at Sony Pictures Studios on April 14, 2013 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 14: Comedian Hasan Minhaj attends the Funny Or Die Make 'Em Laugh Showcase during the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival at The GRAMMY Museum on June 14, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage)
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Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who had written for the Washington Post, was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. After repeated denials, in late October, the Saudi Arabian government officially confirmed Khashoggi’s death and claimed it was the result of a “rogue operation.”

In the episode in question, Minhaj questioned the U.S.’s relationship with the Saudis and mocked the regime’s account of Khashoggi’s murder.

“Saudis were struggling to explain his disappearance: They said he left the consulate safely, then they used a body double to make it seem like he was alive,” the comedian says. “At one point they were saying he died in a fist fight, Jackie Chan-style. They went through so many explanations. The only one they didn’t say was that Khashoggi died in a free solo rock-climbing accident.”

Minhaj, born and raised in California to parents who emigrated to the U.S. from India, was the featured speaker at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. The comedian won a 2018 Peabody Award for his Netflix comedy special “Homecoming King.”

In the weekly “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,” the comedian sets out to “explore the modern cultural and political landscape and search for larger trends shaping the world today,” according to a description of the show from Netflix. The show, set to run 32 episodes, is executive produced by Minhaj, Prashanth Venkataramanujam, Art & Industry’s Michelle Caputo and Shannon Hartman, Jennie Church-Cooper, and Jim Margolis, who also serves as showrunner.

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History of Netflix
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History of Netflix
400303 03: Ready-to-be-shipped DVDs roll down an assembly line January 29, 2002 in San Jose, CA. The online DVD rental site Netflix.com has 500,000 subscribers who can rent, receive and return unlimited discs per month by mail. (Photo By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
400303 01: Netflix.com Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings holds a ready-to-be-shipped DVD January 29, 2002 in San Jose, CA. The online DVD rental site has 500,000 subscribers who can rent, receive and return unlimited discs per month by mail. (Photo By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
400303 05: Packages of DVDs await shipment at the Netflix.com headquarters January 29, 2002 in San Jose, CA. The online DVD rental site has 500,000 subscribers who can rent, receive and return unlimited discs per month by mail. (Photo By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gives a keynote address, January 6, 2016 at the CES 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
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