Amnesty International criticizes Netflix for 'assisting' Saudi Arabia

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International criticized the streaming service Netflix on Wednesday for removing an episode of comedian Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act” in Saudi Arabia after the kingdom complained it violated an anti-cybercrime law.

“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,” Samah Hadid, Middle East Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

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The episode, originally put online on Oct. 28, discussed the death of Washington Post columnist and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The show criticized Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over his kingdom's crackdown on dissent. Netflix said in a statement that it removed the episode after receiving a legal complaint from the country.

“We strongly support artistic freedom worldwide and removed this episode only in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request — and to comply with local law," a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement.

The episode is still available to viewers in the United States.

“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,” Minhaj tweeted Wednesday.

The crown prince has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of Khashoggi's death. While he has denied involvement, Turkish and U.S. officials have said high-ranking Saudi officials had knowledge of the journalist's murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

“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,” Hadid said in his Wednesday statement. 

The U.S. Senate last month passed a resolution deeming the crown prince "responsible" for Khashoggi's death.