Saudi Arabia and Gulf neighbors threaten Netflix over content that ‘violates Islamic values’

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Saudi Arabia and five other Gulf Arab countries have issued a joint statement demanding that Netflix remove content that they consider “violating the values ​​and principles of Islam and society”, Saudi media reported. Ut reported.

The statement said that the streaming giant’s material violated government regulations, though it made no specific reference to which topics or shows violated those rules.

However, many believe that local media and officials voiced that Netflix shows featuring gay characters, same-sex kissing and children portrayed in a sexual perspective were the target of the directive.

The move was made “in light of the recent observation that the platform is broadcasting visual material and content that violates content controls in the GCC countries,” said a statement from the General Hearing Communications Commission. look at Saudi Arabia and the GCC’s Electronic Communications Officials Committee said Tuesday.

The content “violates the values ​​and principles of Islam and society. As a result, the platform has been contacted to remove this content, including child-directed content, and to ensure compliance with the law. “.

The GCC, or Gulf Cooperation Council, is made up of the conservative, Muslim-majority nations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Homosexuality is criminalized in these countries and can result in fines, imprisonment, or even the death penalty.

Authorities also threatened legal action if Netflix failed to comply with its request.

“All legal measures will be taken to protect the Kingdom’s sovereigns, citizens and residents from any intellectual attack aimed at affecting society, the value, the safety of raise their generation and protect them from harmful content,” said Esra Assery, Executive Director of the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media, told Saudi Arabia’s Arab News.

Netflix has yet to publicly respond to the statement and was unavailable for comment when contacted by CNBC.

A ban in Saudi Arabia?

Saudis shop at a supermarket at Panorama Shopping Center in Riyadh.

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Netflix has not responded to the allegations. But many of its users in the United States and Europe have celebrated LGBTQ+ characters and content on the streaming platform, saying it is a positive example of inclusiveness and representation. Netflix still boasts the highest number of users of any paid subscription streaming service, with around 220 million subscribers worldwide as of June last year.

A YouGov survey from September 2021 see Netflix as the most popular streaming service in Saudi Arabiawith 37% of residents in the kingdom saying they use it.

A crackdown on LGBTQ+ topics

This is not the first time that authorities in the oil-rich Gulf Arab states have clashed with Western media over the subject of gay content. In June, the Gulf states, along with several other countries in East and South Asia, cinema release ban of the Disney The Pixar animated film “Lightyear” is about a same-sex relationship and a brief same-sex kiss.

And in July, the e-commerce giant Amazon to be directed by the UAE government to block search results for LGBTQ related products on its UAE website. Not long ago, Saudi authorities raid several children’s stores to seize rainbow-themed toys and clothes were part of the crackdown on homosexuality, state media reported at the time.

Protests against the LGBTQ+ theme come as some countries in the region, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE, try to diversify their economies away from hydrocarbons and attract new investment.

Part of their strategies include liberalizing reforms and loosening some previously strict social rules to attract talent from other parts of the world. Until 2018, cinemas were banned in Saudi Arabia; They are currently being built around the country as a result of these reforms, although censorship of some content still applies.

Activists and human rights groups have long criticized the region’s legislation on homosexuality, while its governments protest that the law protects its religious and cultural norms .

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