The co-CEO of streaming giant Netflix in an interview with СNN commented on the company’s 2019 decision to pull an episode from comedy talk show "Patriot Act” by Hasan Minhaj, which criticized Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) for his role in the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, from Saudi Arabia’s catalog on request of the kingdom’s government.
During an interview, Reed Hastings admitted that Netflix and Saudi Arabia had agreed to air TV series such as "Queer Eye," "Sex Education" and "Orange is the New Black" on the condition that the controversial episodes where bin Salman was referred to as "Abu Rasasa" or father of the bullet are removed from a catalog.
In 2018, Saudi Arabian agents, including those associated with the crown prince, brutally murdered Washington Post columnist and government critic Khashoggi, luring him into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. The U.N. June 2019 report called the assassination a "premeditated execution" for which the Saudi government is "responsible" and called for an investigation into bin Salman's role in the incident.
Asked by the reporter if the decision was a mistake as it violates human rights and freedom of speech, Hastings tried to justify it saying that at least “we are able to have out other content, like 'Queer Eye,' 'Sex Education,' and 'Orange is the New Black' available in Saudi Arabia, so it is a disquieting compromise." According to him, it helped the platform to air many other series considered "socially controversial."
The removal of the episode has sparked major backlash on social media with many claiming that Saudi Arabia is trying to "cover-up MBS's involvement in the Khashoggi case."
Many Arabic-speaking social media users condemned the removal of the episode, arguing that Saudi Arabian officials are seeking to hide political content based on their preferences and interests than to "preserve the country's conservative values."
"This explains how a pedophile film that sexualizes kids has become a top trend in Saudi Arabia," one tweeted referring to the show "Cuties," which many have accused of promoting pedophilia for its sexualized portrayal of pre-teen girls.
"Netflix's CEO Reed Hastings tells CNN that Saudi allowed gay and sexual shows in return for removing an episode in which MBS was criticized following the Khashoggi crisis. We are at a time in which immorality is okay as long as it protects political leaders," another Twitter user wrote.
Commenting on the removal of the episode in Saudi Arabia, comedian Minhaj said that “obviously the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it popular on the internet and then leave it on YouTube."
Earlier this month, Turkey’s media watchdog ordered Netflix to remove the "Cuties" TV series from its catalog after it drew harsh public criticism over alleged pedophile content.
According to a statement by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), the decision was taken due to the program's plot where "children take part in an adult lifestyle and may reveal potential child abuse behavior patterns."
Following its introduction earlier this year, "Cuties" faced some stern criticism on social media platforms from all over the world, and international petitions were launched for the removal of the series. Netflix later apologized and made changes to the images used to promote it.
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