Algeria's denial of entry visas to two French journalists over French "Panama Papers" coverage has prompted a French media boycott. Heading for Algiers, French premier Manuel Valls said he "regrets" Algeria's stance.
France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted before arriving in Algiers on Saturday that he had "deep regrets" over Algeria's refusal to issue visas to two French journalists working for Le Monde and the French satirical news show Le Petit Journal on the television channel Canal+.
They were to have covered Vall's weekend visit to the northern African country seen by the West as a regional actor in resolving strife in neighboring Libya, a transit nation for refugees trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.
On Wednesday, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra had summoned French Ambassador Bernard Emie to complain about a "hostile campaign" against Algeria by French media stemming from the past week's massive Panama Papers leak.
Le Monde was among many world media outlets that broke the scandal early this week and explored the finances of several high-profile Algerians, including Industry Minister Abdeslam Bouchouareb.
Fallout from 'Panama Papers'
In protest at Algeria's visa denial, several other French media outlets, including Le Monde's rival newspapers Liberation and Le Figaro, as well as the public radio stations France Inter and France Culture, also decided not to accompany Valls to provide direct media coverage of his trip.
The French news agency AFP quoted a source close to Valls as saying that he had tried to persuade Algeria to lift its ban on both journalists.
Initially, about 20 media outlets had been accredited to cover Vall's visit focus on trade with the former French colony. Several accords are to be signed.
Arriving in Algiers for talks with Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal (pictured above) late on Saturday, Valls said France and Algeria would "work together" and were "above minor problems" - an apparent reference to the media row stemming from the past week's Panama Papers scandal.
Le Monde focus on Bouchouareb
Bouchouareb was due to hold talks with French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron as another member of the visiting French delegation.
Citing the Panama Papers, Le Monde had also reported that Bouchouareb had an offshore company established in Panama in April 2015 handling real estate assets.
On Tuesday, Le Monde published a front-page photo of President Bouteflika before later clarifying that his name did not appear in the Panama Papers.
Algeria's refusal to grant a visa to the second journalist from the satirical Le Petit Journal was less clear. It has frequently reported on the health of Algeria's 78-year-old Bouteflika.
ipj/bw (AFP, dpa, AP)