Belgian government demands the closure of Facebook groups. The active Belgian based Facebook group and Instagram account of Cigarleaves is forced to its Instagram feed and the Facebook group. The admins of Cigarleaves received a cease notion from Facebook, with a court order from the Belgian government. It’s not the first time that the Belgian government overreacts and overreaches its power when it comes to tobacco.
Cigarleaves was a very active, friendly, and well-organized group with mainly European cigar aficionados. The group complied by the Facebook regulations, sales of tobacco weren’t allowed in the group. As cigar media, a cigar lover, and a member of Cigarleaves, we hate to see the group disappear.
Earlier this year, the Belgian based magazine El Gusto was threatened by the Belgian government forcing publisher Ben Vinken to retire. The Belgian online cigar magazine Robusto ceased operations as well because of this overreach. The Belgian government is using an outdated and vague anti-tobacco law from 1977. The anti-tobacco advertising law says that ‘advertising and sponsoring is any publication with the meaning to enhance sales’. And there is much to debate whether an Instagram account and Facebook group of cigar enthusiasts, where no sales are conducted, is considered advertising and sponsoring.
It is also not the first time that the Belgian government forced a Facebook group to close. According to the founder of Cigarleaves, another Belgian group was forced and slapped with jurisdictional threats from Belgian government officials.
No real government
It raised questions where the priorities of the Belgians lie in the midst of the Corona pandemic. Forcing cigar enthusiasts to close their social media accounts, even though no law has been broken should not be a priority for any government. Let alone, for a country that is without an official elected government since December 21st, 2018. That’s when the current outgoing government fell. Elections took place on May 26, 2019, yet negotiations on which coalition will be running the country are still ongoing, with no progression at all. And these inefficient politicians find the time and feel its a priority, to attack free speech of cigar enthusiasts on an American based platform. Belgian politicians should be ashamed, very ashamed. it’s not the first time that Belgium has such problems forming a government. In 2010/2011, it took the Belgians 541 days to form a coalition. Maybe it’s time to accept that Belgium is a failed experiment.