Netflix is facing heat from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations over the content on its platform that allegedly violates Islamic values. The complaints by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan relate to Netflix titles like Sense8 and 13 Reasons Why, according to Reuters, as well as its recent deal with comedian Hasan Minhaj, who has been critical of the Saudi crown prince in his comedy specials. The streaming service did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
According to Saudi media, Netflix was ordered to delete content that they claim “violates Islamic and social norms and principles” by Saudi Arabia and five other Gulf Arab nations.
The statement claimed that the streaming behemoth’s content violated legal requirements, although it made no mention of whether specific subjects or programmes were in violation.
But it’s commonly thought, and has been stated by local media and officials, that Netflix episodes with gay protagonists, same-sex kisses, and portrayals of youngsters as having sexual orientation are the things that the mandate is intended to stop.
According to a statement released on Tuesday by the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media and the GCC Committee of Electronic Media Officials, the action was taken “in light of the recent observation that the platform was broadcasting visual material and content which violated content controls in GCC countries.”
The information “violates fundamental societal and Islamic values and principles. Therefore, the platform was contacted to guarantee compliance with the law and to delete this information, particularly content aimed at minors.
The Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, is made up of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman, all of which have a majority of conservative Muslims. In these nations, homosexuality is a crime that carries fines, jail time, and even the death penalty.
If Netflix disregards the government’s demand, legal action is also being threatened.
According to Esra Assery, CEO of the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media, “all legal measures will be taken to protect the Kingdom’s sovereignty, citizens, and residents from any intellectual attack intended to affect its societies, values, safety of upbringing their generations, and protecting them from harmful content.”
Saudi Arabia has a ban?
Tuesday saw the publication of a television programme on the subject from the Saudi state news station Al Ekhbariya TV that featured segments from the Netflix cartoon series “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous.” The state network’s story featured a hazy image of two female characters kissing and professing their love for one another.
Netflix encourages kid homosexuality beneath a dramatic cover, according to Al Ekhbariya’s story, which was shared on the news outlet’s official Twitter account, which has 1.4 million followers. Will Saudi Arabia soon prohibit Netflix? ”
Netflix harms children’s healthy development and disseminates “immoral themes,” according to another tweet from the state network, which included a video and the hashtags “#CancelNetflix” and “#BoycottNetflix.”
The allegations have received no response from Netflix. However, many of its customers in the U.S. and Europe have praised the streaming service for including LGBTQ+ characters and material, saying it sets a good example for diversity and representation. With 220 million customers globally as of late June, Netflix continues to have the most consumers of any commercial streaming service.
According to a YouGov study from September 2021, 37% of Saudi Arabian citizens use Netflix, making it the most widely used streaming service in the country.
crackdown on LGBTQ+-themed content
Authorities in the oil-rich Arab Gulf states have fought with Western media about homosexual content before, so this is by no means a new development. Due to the depiction of a same-sex romance and a fleeting same-sex kiss in the Disney Pixar animated film “Lightyear,” the Gulf nations and numerous others in East and South Asia prohibited its theatrical distribution in June.
Additionally, the UAE government ordered Amazon, a major online retailer, to ban searches for LGBTQ-related items on its UAE website in July. Soon after that, as part of a campaign against homosexuality, Saudi Arabian authorities raided several children’s stores and seized toys and clothing with rainbow themes, according to state media at the time.
The opposition to LGBTQ+ themes comes as several of the nations in the area, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, work to diversify their economies and draw in new capital.
In order to draw talent from throughout the world, some of their efforts include liberalising reforms and loosening certain formerly harsh social rules. Movie theatres were not allowed in Saudi Arabia until 2018. As a result of these reforms, they are currently being erected everywhere in the kingdom, however certain content is still subject to regulation.
The region’s rules against homosexuality have long been under fire from activists and human rights organisations, but the governments there argue that the regulations are necessary to maintain the region’s religious and cultural traditions.