Algeria bars French journalists amid Panama Papers row

8th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

Algeria has has refused visas to journalists from a French newspaper and TV news show amid a row over what Algiers says is a "hostile campaign" by French media following the Panama Papers leak.

The journalists from Le Monde newspaper and Le Petit Journal show were to have covered an official visit by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls to Algeria this weekend.

Le Monde editorial director Jerome Fenoglio said Friday that Algeria had refused the paper's journalist a visa, condemning the move as a "shackle on press freedom".

Four other major French media outlets, including Le Monde's rival newspapers Liberation and Le Figaro, said they would boycott the trip in protest.

After learning of the Algerians' intentions on Wednesday, Valls spoke to his counterpart Abdelmalek Sellal to try to get the ban lifted, but without success, a source close to him said.

Le Monde was one of a large group of newspapers around the world to publish the leak of millions of financial records showing how Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca had helped firms and wealthy individuals set up offshore companies.

The French daily on Tuesday published a front-page photo of showing Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika among leaders involved in the leak, before clarifying that his name does not appear in the Panama Papers.

The paper has also reported, citing the Panama Papers, that Algerian Industry Minister Abdesselam Bouchouareb had an offshore company established in Panama in April 2015.

Algeria summoned the French ambassador on Wednesday to complain about a "hostile campaign" against the North African nation by French media.

Satirical show Le Petit Journal, which airs on the Canal+ channel, appears to have been hit with the ban over a number of items it has run in recent months joking about the Algerian president's health.

"We suspect the tone of our reporting has upset them but we've not had any explanation," a source close to the channel told AFP.

Relations between France and its former colony, often turbulent, have been on the mend since President Francois Hollande came to power in 2012.

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron is due to meet Bouchouareb, whose offshore company managed real estate assets worth 700,000 euros ($800,000), according to the leaked papers.

Hollande on Friday "strongly encouraged" Panama to cooperate with French tax authorities as they investigate the revelations in the leak.

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© 2016 AFP

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