Netflix CEO Reed Hastings defends the company's decision to make an installment of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act of its service in Saudi Arabia, Netflix does not say "truth to do business".
Hastings spoke about the decision that took place earlier this year, while at a New York Times DealBook event this week. The Minhaj episode criticized the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and the government's response to the high-profile, critically criticized death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The government reportedly told Netflix that the Minhaj episode violated the country's cyber crime laws.
"We are not in the truth about doing business, we are in the entertainment industry," Hastings told journalist Aaron Ross Sorkin, as reported by NBC & # 39; s Dylan Byers.
However, that is not entirely true. Netflix has released a number of limited series and films that hold truth in power. Ava DuVernay & # 39; s When they see us investigated the Central Park Five case in which five young black men were wrongly convicted of a crime. The docuseries were praised and won an Emmy, but it also resulted in a defamation process against DuVernay and Netflix that the two sides are currently fighting. The laundry service, a film based on the Panama Papers starring Meryl Streep, investigated a large data breach that showed how rich and powerful people are hiding their money. The film even led to one lawsuit of two lawyers he tried not to stream the film, but the attempt failed.
Undoubtedly, Netflix has truth in power with some of its releases, even if Hastings does not want to acknowledge this. More worrying is the message he sends to future filmmakers and writers who might want to hold powerful people responsible for their actions. Hastings did not defend the work of Minhaj. Instead, he chose the side of a foreign government for a decision that led to great criticism.
The decision of Netflix led to complaints from various organizations and public figures, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Director Jillian C. York told the Financial times back in January that the removal of the episode by Netflix was "an insult to freedom of expression". Although the episode was removed from Netflix in Saudi Arabia, it was still free to watch on YouTube.
"It is clear that the best way to prevent people from watching is to ban it, make it trend online and then keep it on YouTube," tweeted Minhaj at the time. "Let us not forget that the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world is currently taking place in Yemen."
Netflix has been active in Saudi Arabia for almost three years. A company spokesperson told CNBC when Netflix's response was "consistent with the way other US-based companies work." Yet Hastings' new comment comes at a time when international relationships between entertainment companies and countries such as China are being scrutinized.
Netflix is not active in China, although it has tried over the years, with reference to "challenging" regulations. Other companies, such as Disney, Apple and Blizzard Entertainment, still have relationships with China. Recent actions by some of the aforementioned companies in China have led to widespread criticism.