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Adhere to societal values, says Egypt
KUWAIT CITY, Sep 7: Two Kuwaiti state bodies on Wednesday said they support a demand by Gulf Cooperation Council member countries for US streaming giant Netflix to remove content they deem “offensive” and an affront to Islamic social values. Kuwait will “closely monitor” how compliant Netflix will be with the Gulf Cooperation Council’s request, according to a joint statement by the Information Ministry and the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority. Any content seen as “inappropriate” will be strictly banned, the statement warned, saying Netflix risks facing legal action if the demand by Gulf Arab countries is not met
Earlier, Egypt’s media regulator demanded Wednesday that Netflix and other streaming services adhere to this majority Muslim country’s “societal values” – a veiled reference to programs featuring members of the LGBTQ community. The statement came a day after Gulf Arab countries asked Netflix to remove “offensive content” on the streaming service, apparently targeting programs that show gays and lesbians.
According to the Egyptian government’s statement, streaming services should comply with “societal principles and values of the country” they are streaming in. The statement called for them to undertake “necessary measures if they air content contradicting values of the society.” The statement by the Supreme Council for Media Regulation did not elaborate. Later Wednesday, Netflix, based in Los Gatos, California, declined an Associated Press request for a comment.
Homosexuality is highly taboo in Egypt, where a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 95% of those polled said it should be “rejected by society.” Though it is not explicitly prohibited by law, members of the LGBTQ community are often prosecuted under charges of “immorality” and “debauchery.” Authorities regularly arrest gay men, with large police raids on private parties or locations such as public baths, restaurants, and bars. Egypt’s movie industry, long celebrated in the Mideast, also bans films and programs from featuring gays and lesbians.
A joint statement issued on behalf of a committee of the Gulf Cooperation Council made the request, saying the unspecified programs “contradict Islamic and societal values and principles.” Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates each published the statement via their respective governments as well. They, along with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar, make up the six-nation council.
While the statement didn’t elaborate, Saudi state television also aired video of an interview it conducted with a woman identified as a “behavioral consultant” who described Netflix as being an “official sponsor of homosexuality.” It aired footage at the same time of a cartoon, “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous,” in which two women kissed, 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. 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. Many Muslims consider gays and lesbians 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 centralize power in the kingdom. Netflix has limited content previously in Saudi Arabia. In 2019, activists blasted the streaming service for pulling an episode of comedian Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act” that criticized 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.