A number of Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, have called on Netflix to remove what they consider to be “offensive content.” The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, initially made the call to ban the streaming of movies and TV shows featuring same-gender relationships or interactions, such as between two biological men or two biological women. Egypt was quick to follow suit, releasing its own statement.
According to the Gulf Cooperation Council, the offending programs “contravene Islamic societal values and principles.” Egypt went as far as threatening legal action against any program that “conflicts with societal values.” A joint statement from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and the Media Regulatory Office said, “The Netflix platform has been contacted to remove this content, especially the offending content directed at children, and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and the Media Regulatory Office will follow up on what the platform broadcasts during the coming period and the extent of its commitment to broadcasting controls in the UAE and applying the necessary measures in the event of broadcasting any materials that contradict the values of society. It does not comply with the laws and regulations in force in the country.”
The push is centered on culturally sensitive content in the children’s programs, which correlates with the Disney + Middle East decision. In spite of the fact that none of the countries specifically said they were referring to inappropriate scenes or characters, a number of these same countries have banned the release of Western-produced films in theaters for the same reason. There has been an uproar in some online circles in recent months due to the content of culturally sensitive children’s shows and films, forcing streamers to adjust to local guidelines.
As a result of the failure to meet certain cultural sensitivities standards in countries where the films have not been released, the respective local authorities have deemed each film unsuitable for local audiences. Instead of editing culturally sensitive content from the already completed films, Disney chose not to release in these markets.
Many titles, aimed at children, have been banned in the Gulf, including Disney’s Eternals, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, West Side Story, and Lightyear, all for depictions of same-gender relationships and characters in various countries. In the Eternals, which was the last film to be edited for content by Disney, all acts of public displays of affection were cut from the film. Since that, Disney has decided not to edit its content. Therefore, Disney+ Middle East’s content strategy appears to be in line with UAE regulations, said sites like Bounding to Comics.
Both Saudi Arabia and the broader GCC have joined in, asking Netflix to censor the same material. “The platform was contacted to remove this content, including content directed to children,” a statement released by the Saudi media regulator and the Gulf Coast Council said to Netflix.