Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries in the Middle East have told global streaming giant Netflix to remove un-Islamic content. Although not specified, this is understood to mean that it should take down content including LGBTQ elements.
The announcement was made Tuesday by the Committee of the Electronic Media Officials within the Gulf Cooperation Council, a trade and political association that includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. issued similar, separate statements.
Associated Press reported that Saudi state television also aired video of an interview it conducted with a woman it identified as a behavioral consultant who described Netflix as being an “official sponsor of homosexuality.” It aired footage of a cartoon that had two women embrace, though the footage was blurred out. “Saudi state television also aired a segment suggesting Netflix could be banned in the kingdom over that programming reaching children,” AP reported.
Variety has reached out to Netflix for comment.
Saudi Arabia began moves only as recently as 2017 to establish a cinema industry, something that has led to the building of multiplexes, development of local companies and organization of the annual Red Sea Film Festival.
However, the country, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim, has of late clashed with the western entertainment sector. In June, the kingdom was one of more than a dozen countries where Pixar animation “Lightyear” could not be screened, due to the film’s depiction of a same sex kiss. In April, Marvel’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was banned due to its inclusion of a gay character.
Saudi Arabia has no laws regarding sexual orientation or gender identity. But all sexual relations outside marriage are strictly prohibited. The country also operates Sharia or Islamic law. Under this system, consensual same-sex sexual conduct is punishable by death or flogging.
In a joint statement issued the GCC committee and Saudi Arabia’s General Commission For Audiovisual Media demanded Netflix remove infringing contents and warned that they would take all legal measures against Netflix if it failed to adhere to the regulations.
“The committee and GCAM have confirmed that they have contacted the streaming platform to remove infringing content. In addition, they have also demanded to remove contents that are directed to children as these contain infringing materials,” said the Saudi Gazette.