(COMMON DREAMS) Amy Goodman, Denis Moynihan, January 4, 2019 — Netflix’s decision to censor an episode of comedian Hasan Minhaj’s series, blocking access to it within Saudi Arabia, has implications that ripple far beyond the borders of the Saudi dictatorship. “Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj” is a comedy series produced by Netflix, featuring the young, Muslim-American comedian’s commentary on news and current affairs. Among the topics covered in the show’s first season this past fall were affirmative action, the corporate giant Amazon, oil, immigration enforcement and, in the episode released on Oct. 28, Saudi Arabia.
The timing of the segment placed it squarely in the midst of the developing scandal around the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Days before the segment came out, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaking at an investment conference in Riyadh that was widely boycotted because of his perceived connection to the brutal murder, said it was a “heinous crime that cannot be justified.” The next day, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor admitted the killing was premeditated. This only intensified international pressure on Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman, with bipartisan calls in the U.S. Congress to halt arms sales to the kingdom. The CIA reportedly confirmed that Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing.
The U.S. State Department, in its 2017 annual report on human-rights practices in Saudi Arabia, specifically noted that Khashoggi went into “self-exile” from his home country because “in 2016 authorities purportedly banned him from writing, appearing on television, and attending conferences as the result of remarks he made that were interpreted as criticizing the president of the United States,” referring to President Donald Trump.
Throughout the censored episode, Minhaj implicated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to as “MBS,” and noted the close relationship MBS has with the Trump family, especially with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. Minhaj said: “MBS was shocked by all of the anger over the killing of one journalist. According to The Wall Street Journal, on a phone call with Jared Kushner, MBS asked, ‘Why the outrage?’ And frankly, MBS’s confusion is completely understandable. He has been getting away with autocratic [bleep] like this for years with almost no blowback from the international community.”