April 8, 2016 / 4:10 PM / 2 years ago

Algeria bans French journalist in row over Panama Papers

PARIS (Reuters) - France has complained to Algeria over its decision to deny a visa for a Le Monde reporter to cover a trip by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls to Algiers after the newspaper published details of Algerian officials named in the Panama Papers.

Citing documents leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, Le Monde reported that Algerian Industry Minister Abdesselam Bouchouareb set up an offshore company in Panama in April 2015.

Le Monde also published a front-page picture of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika among leaders it said were named in the documents, which detailed how rich and powerful figures across the world had stashed away their wealth in secretive accounts.

Algeria summoned the French ambassador on Wednesday to complain that French media reports on the issue were a “malicious campaign” and it protested again on Thursday.

“We were informed of the intention to not issue a visa,” a French diplomatic source said.

Valls had spoken to Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal to express his disagreement with the decision, the source added.

Valls is due to visit Algiers over Saturday and Sunday to discuss trade ties and investment opportunities and was to be accompanied by about 20 French journalists.

Le Monde said it regretted the decision, which it said was against the freedom of the press.

Algeria fought a war of independence with France from 1954 to 1962 and ties between the two countries have at times been complicated.

French officials said the ambassador had been told by the government office to convince Algiers to reverse its decision.

“The ambassador explained that editorial coverage was fixed by the editorial team and had nothing to do with the government,” a French diplomatic source said.

“The Algerians wanted to express their irritation and we’ve taken note of that.”

Several French media said they were considering boycotting Valls’ visit in protest.

Reporting By John Irish and Elizabeth Pineau, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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