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Netflix pulls episode of comedy show to satisfy Saudi Arabia 'legal demand'

The second episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj criticizes the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.


Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj. 

Screenshot by Marrian Zhou/CNET

Netflix removed an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj from its Saudi Arabia service after the kingdom complained.

That episode, the comedy show's second, slammed the Middle Eastern country following the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Released in October, it remains available on Netflix outside Saudi Arabia and worldwide on YouTube.

It also criticized Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the country's military campaign in Yemen.

The streaming service removed the episode last week after Saudi Arabia's Communications and Information Technology Commission alleged that it violated an anti-cyber crime law, the Financial Times previously reported.

The move raises fresh questions about the limits of free expression online, but Netflix noted that this was a legal issue.

"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," a Netflix spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Hasan Minhaj on Wednesday tweeted a response saying that "the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it trend online, and then leave it up on YouTube."

The Communications and Information Technology Commission didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In October, Twitter reportedly suspended a bot network pushing a pro-Saudi Arabia message regarding Khashoggi.

CNET's Marrian Zhou contributed to this report. 

First published at 7:04 a.m. PT.
Updated at 7:45 a.m. PT: Added Netflix statement and YouTube clip.

Updated at 12:00 p.m. PT: Adds Hasan Minhaj statement on Twitter. 

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