SAUDI agents tried to sink a film about murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi by trolling it with terrible reviews.
Film sites IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes were hit by an avalanche of fake reviews of the explosive documentary The Dissident.
The film claims Khashoggi was hacked to death inside a Saudi consulate by a hit squad taking orders from Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler.
Professional critics hailed the The Dissident as "urgent, gripping and essential viewing".
It won five-star reviews when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
But Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB were bombarded by bad reviews when it was released in the US last month.
One reviewer claimed it was “a film produced by terrorists”. Another branded Khashoggi a traitor who got what he deserved.
This trolling is unquestionably the work of the Saudi regime.
The trolling came as US President Biden suspended arms sales to the oil-rich Kingdom over human rights concerns.
Avril Haines, his new Director of National Intelligence, also signalled plans to declassify a CIA investigation which is expected to blame Prince bin Salman for the the 2018 murder.
President Trump had kept the report secret.
More than 1,000 reviews on IMDB were posted by users from outside America, even though the film is currently only available inside the US.
British-educated filmmaker Thor Halvorssen, whose Human Rights Foundation funded the doc, said: “This trolling is unquestionably the work of the Saudi regime.
“Just as with Jamal, they are trying to silence their critics abroad."
The doc’s most shocking scenes are based on a transcript of the bugged Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Secret audio recordings, shared with the UN, captured the assassins laughing and joking as they plotted to dismember the dad-of-four with a bone saw.
It is thought they burnt his body on a BBQ at the nearby Consul’s residence – along with 70kg of meat to disguise the smell.
The Crown Prince, known by his initials MBS, has always denied any involvement.
Saudi-born Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, visited the consulate to get paperwork for his upcoming marriage to Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.
A spokesman for Rotten Tomatoes said there had been “deliberate attempts to manipulate the movie's audience score”.
IMDB, which is owned by Amazon, insisted it had systems in place to “detect and defeat malicious attempts to skew the rating”.
“The current rating for the film reflects that,” a spokeswoman said. “We also regularly monitor activity around titles that may be targeted.”
Bill Law, editor of the Arab Digest, said: “This looks like an effort to silence critics which has come back and hit them in the face. The Saudis don’t have very much finesse when they embark upon these projects.”
The film was directed by Bryan Fogel, who won an Oscar for his Icarus film into Russian state-sponsored Olympic doping.
The Saudi embassy in London could not be reached for comment.
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