Seven Arab countries have demanded that Netflix remove content they consider offensive from the streaming platform’s local sites.
On Tuesday, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and four other Gulf Arab states — released a statement demanding that Netflix remove “visual materials that violate the media content controls in the GCC countries and contradict Islamic and societal values and principles,” according to the Kuwait News Agency.
In the statement, the GCC Committee on Electronic Media and the Saudi Audio-Visual Media Authority said that “if the violating content continues to be broadcasted, it will take necessary legal measures.”
A day later, Egypt issued a similar warning, also threatening legal action against Netflix, Disney+, and other streaming services “in case of broadcasting materials that contradict the values of the community.”
While neither statement explicitly mentions the specific content in question, as CNBC and The New York Times reported, depictions of LGBTQ characters and relationships are widely believed to be the target. Homosexuality is illegal and in some cases punishable by death in the conservative, majority Muslim GCC countries. While Egyptian law does not explicitly criminalize same-sex sexual acts, LGBTQ people are often prosecuted for “immorality” there or surveilled, jailed, and tortured over trumped-up charges of prostitution, drug dealing, or “vice.”
This summer, GCC states Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait were among the countries that banned Disney and Pixar’s Lightyear over a brief scene depicting a same-sex kiss.
Saudi state news channel Al Ekhbariya TV aired a report on Tuesday, accusing Netflix of being an “official sponsor of homosexuality” and promoting “child homosexuality.”
Netflix hasn’t commented on the statements.
While Arab government officials seek to censor LGBTQ content on “moral” grounds, brave Arab and Muslim filmmakers continue to make inclusive films exploring the lived experiences of queer Middle Easterners.