Netflix said that it was forced to pull two drug-themed shows from Singapore last year by order of local media regulators.
Long after two programs vanished from the streaming service’s domestic offerings, it disclosed yesterday that Cooked with Cannabis was removed in May and the documentary Have A Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics in August at the request of the government.
“We offer creators the ability to reach audiences all around the world. However, our catalog varies from country to country, including for rights reasons (i.e., we don’t have the rights to show everything in every country where we operate),” Netflix said in an annual report of environmental and social disclosures. “In some cases, we’ve also been forced to remove specific titles or episodes of titles in specific countries due to government takedown demands.”
Singapore accounted for half of the four titles Netflix removed at the governments’ request last year. The other two – the film Cuties and an episode of Designated Survivor – were done so at the Turkish government’s behest.
“In May 2020, we complied with a written demand from the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to remove the series Cooked with Cannabis in Singapore only,” it listed in the report detailing the company’s environmental efforts, governance practices and workforce diversity.
A similar entry was included for the August removal of the psychedelics documentary.
In its 23 years, Netflix has been censored nowhere more than Singapore, which accounted for seven of the 13 takedown notices it has disclosed in its history.
Weed shows – a platform staple – have been targeted before, with Cooking on High, The Legend of 420 and sitcom Disjointed were removed in 2018. In 2019, it was 1988 drama The Last Temptation of Christ, which is banned in Singapore. The Last Hangover, a comedy spoof in which Jesus’ last supper is given a The Hangover-esque plot, was pulled in early 2020.
The IMDA did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Under its censorship guidelines, films that show “detailed and instructive depictions of drug or psychoactive substance abuse” will not be given a rating also known as “refused classification.”
After this story was published, the IMDA said it has “a zero-tolerance stance against drugs” and that service providers have to follow guidelines including classification ratings.
“The Content Code serves to protect the young from unsuitable content (including inappropriate content that glorifies or encourages drug and substance abuse), maintain community norms and values, and safeguard public interests, while allowing adults to make informed choices,” it said in a statement.
Both Netflix originals were removed within months of their release. Cooked with Cannabis, hosted by singer Kelis and American chef Leather Storrs, featured participants competing to make marijuana-infused dishes while Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics recounted the wild drug trips of celebrities like rapper ASAP Rocky and Sting.
Update: This story has been updated with a statement from IMDA.
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