Serbia’s Tanjug "operating independently" despite order to close, minister says

Serbia’s Tanjug
By Ivana Jovanovic in Belgrade October 19, 2016

Serbia’s former state news agency is “relying on market revenue and operating independently”, despite being ordered to shut down in 2015, Minister of Culture and Information Vladan Vukosavljevic said on October 18. 

Tanjug was one of 73 state-owned media outlets that were supposed to be privatised last year, but no bidders came forward for the agency or dozens of other radio and television broadcasters. However, Tanjug is still operating despite the government’s November 4 decision to shut it down. While not officially reversing the decision, the government appears content to let the agency’s work continue. There are also reports that Belgrade is continuing to fund Tanjug. 

"Surviving in the media market is not easy - I see Tanjug is working very actively in all areas but how the funding works is not a question for us at this time," Vukosavljevic said, Tanjug reported on October 18.

There is no plan for Tanjug for the time being, just a plan to develop a media strategy, he said, adding that Tanjug would be one of the topics discussed.

A detailed analysis of all circumstances of the situation regarding Tanjug is under way, Vukosavljevic said.

"In the foreseeable future - I suppose in a month or a month and a half - we will have somewhat more specific positions, I cannot say anything more specific as there are still no concrete conclusions," he added.

Vukosavljevic succeeded Ivan Tasovac as minister of culture and information in August. Tasovac was in charge of the ministry when it announced that Tanjug would be closed and its workers dismissed by the end of November 2015.

According to anti-corruption website Pistaljka (“whistleblower” in Serbian), Tanjug costs the state budget €2mn per month and Vukosavljevic’s ministry is obliged to pay this money.

Tanjug, or Telegrafska Agencija Nove Jugoslavije, was found in 1943 as Yugoslavia’s official news agency. During the socialist era it closely followed the activities of Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito, and was one of the main sources for all print media at that time.

Despite a decade of war and the breakdown of the joint state, the agency has survived and maintained its reputation and standards. It is still the country’s most prominent and trusted news source. “As Tanjug reports” is a popular catchphrase in Serbia.

However, Tanjug has also lost the dominant position it had in the socialist era as other broadcasters - although they often quote Tanjug - now have their own teams on the ground. Competitors include local broadcasters such as B92 (which was acquired by Antenna Group last year), RTS, Pink TV and the local affiliate of CNN.