Gulf states demand Netflix pull content deemed offensive
7th September 2022

Gulf nations demand Netflix removes gay content that ‘contradicts Islamic values’ – with the streaming service dubbed an ‘official sponsor of homosexuality’

  • Gulf Arab nations said Netflix content violated regulations and was ‘offensive’
  • The media regulator did not specify the content, but Saudi State TV showed blurred clips from a cartoon in which two teenage girls kiss each other
  • Same-sex relationships are criminalised in many Muslim-majority nations

Gulf Arab nations have demanded that U.S. streaming giant Netflix removes content showing gay and lesbian characters as it ‘contradicts Islamic values’. 

Recent content, including material aimed at children, violated regulations and was deemed ‘offensive’, the Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council media watchdogs said in a statement.

They said the unspecified shows ‘contradict Islamic and societal values and principles’. 

While the regulator did not specify the ‘offensive content’, Saudi state television aired an interview with a woman identified as a ‘behavioural consultant’ who described Netflix as being an ‘official sponsor of homosexuality’. 

At the same time, state TV showed blurred clips from the cartoon, ‘Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous,’ in which two teenage girls confess their love for each other and kiss. 

Saudi state television also aired a segment suggesting Netflix could be banned in the kingdom over that programming reaching children. 

At the same time, state TV showed blurred clips from the cartoon, ‘Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous,’ in which two teenage girls confess their love for each other and kiss

The Riyadh-based General Commission for Audiovisual Media’s statement said the content violated media regulations in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which groups Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.  

If Netflix continued to broadcast the content then ‘necessary legal measures will be taken’, it said, without elaborating.

Netflix did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Same-sex relationships are criminalised in many Muslim-majority nations and films featuring such relationships have in the past been banned by regulators in those countries, while others with profanity or illicit drug use are sometimes censored.

The move comes after countries in the Muslim world in June banned the public showing of Disney’s latest animated film Lightyear over a brief moment showing two lesbian characters kissing.

After that, the company’s Disney+ streaming service said its ‘content available should align with local regulatory requirements’ in Gulf Arab countries.

Gulf Arab nations have demanded that U.S. streaming giant Netflix removes content showing gay and lesbian characters as it ‘contradicts Islamic values’ (file image)

Many Muslims consider people who are gay or lesbian to be sinful. In some parts of the Arab world, members of the LGBTQ community have been arrested and sentenced to prison. Some countries even maintain the death penalty.

The move also comes as regional streaming services try to eat into Netflix’s revenue, including the Shahid service operated by the Saudi-owned MBC Group.

The Saudi government is believed to hold a controlling stake in MBC Group after a series of arrests in 2017 ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over corruption allegations that saw him centralise power in the kingdom.

Netflix has limited content previously in Saudi Arabia.

In 2019, activists criticised the streaming service for pulling an episode of comedian Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act that criticised Prince Mohammed over the killing and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as the kingdom’s involvement in the war in Yemen.

Netflix at the time said the episode was removed from the kingdom as a result of a legal request from authorities and not due to its content.

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