- A comedian said Saudi Arabia encouraged more people to watch his show “Patriot Act” by making Netflix remove an episode.
- Hasan Minhaj criticised Saudi Arabia on his show, accusing it of covering up the murder of Jamal Khashoggi to protect Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
- In response, Saudi authorities threatened Netflix with legal action, and they pulled the episode.
- In a tweet, Minhaj noted that this made the show a viral news story, and attracted a huge viewership to it on YouTube.
The comedian whose show was pulled from Netflix in Saudi Arabia said that the kingdom had played itself by encouraging more people to talk about and watch the show.
In the episode of “Patriot Act” that Netflix removed in Saudi Arabia, Hasan Minhaj accused the country of covering up the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in order to protect its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
He also criticised the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen and the power and wealth of the Saudi royal family.
Minhaj said that the removal of the episode made it go viral, and that more people saw it as a result.
“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,” he tweeted sarcastically on Wednesday.
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
He also encouraged people to donate to victims of the conflict in Yemen, calling it “the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.”
Netflix confirmed to the Financial Times on Tuesday that it had removed the episode from Saudi Araba, citing a legal complaint from the kingdom.
The episode is available on YouTube, where it had been viewed more than 1.6 million times at the time of writing.
It is now the post-popular video in the “Patriot Act” channel’s history, with more than 60% more views than the closest runner-up.
In the episode, Minhaj mocked Saudi Arabia’s changing account of Khashoggi’s death and said it was designed to protect Crown Prince Mohammed’s international reputation as a “reformer.”
Saudi Arabia had initially claimed that Khashoggi safely left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had later found to have been killed in October. After changing its story multiple times, the kingdom now blames government agents who it said exceeded their authority.
“This is the most unbelievable cover story since Blake Shelton won sexiest man alive. Are you kidding me?” Minhaj, a Muslim-American comedian, said.
“This entire cover-up exists for one reason,” Minhaj said, before the show cut to clips of reporters citing analysts who suggested that the changing story was made to protect the crown prince.
Saudi Arabia has consistently maintained that Crown Prince Mohammed was not aware of and did not order the killing. But the CIA reportedly found that the crown prince did personally the killing, and a motion passed by the US Senate placed the blame on him.
Minhaj also said that more attention should have been put on the war in Yemen, where an estimated 85,000 children under the age of five have died since 2015, before Khashoggi’s death.
“It blows my mind that it took the killing of a Washington Post journalist for everyone to go, ‘Oh, I guess [Crown Prince Mohammed] is not a reformer,” he said. “Meanwhile, every Muslim person you know was like, ‘Yeah, no sh–.'”
Netflix told the Financial Times that Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission requested the episode’s removal, accusing it of violating cybercrime law.
Netflix said it supports “artistic freedom worldwide” but that it had received a “valid legal request.”
Karen Attiah, Khashoggi’s editor at The Washington Post, where he wrote columns often critical of the Saudi government, was critical of Netflix on Twitter and said the fact it had removed the episode was “outrageous.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.