Skip to main content
June 27, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 351
The Tanjug affair

Arranging the pieces

by Aleksandar Ciric

For along time it was the only one. Even so, it was good, reliable, and big. Then somebody found out that it was in the hands of the other federal  state, so he became undesirable and dangerous. When the state was success fully dismantled, it became ours, small, and ridiculous. But it still remained significant for party politics and staff reshuffling.
We are talking about Tanjug, the Yugoslav news agency. In a space between  the late eighties and today, political developments transformed Tanjug into a service printing desirable political comments for state-controlled  media. In that very same period, agencies such as Beta, Fonet, Montena Faks and the Kosovo Information Centre (KIC) have taken over Tanjug's business. Ironically, Tanjug bears a striking resemblance to the KIC and its ties with Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic Alliance of Kosovo (DSK).

However, Tanjug has exceeded all expectations when it comes to shooting yourself in the foot. A hasty "withdrawal" of comments on Klaus Kinkel and  Hubert Vedrin is a recent and quite famous example of the agency's accomplishments.

Even the federal government's whiplash of Tanjug did not come as a surprise. The "red" daily Borba has been given to JUL, as the daily's circulation is just about sufficient for the party's elite membership. A much more serious attack was launched against the daily Vecernje Novosti. Slobodan Jovanovic, one of the veterans of the "popular revolution" and a former Tanjug managing director, happened to be on the daily's Board of Directors.

Slobodan Milosevic's rise to power was preceded by the "reconstruction" of non-government media. His exodus from Kosovo Polje to the Dedinje Palace has been accompanied by an appropriate shift of power. There isn't a better example of the irrelevance of political functions not occupied by Slobodan Milosevic than Milan Milutinovic's telegram congratulating the Yugoslav soccer team for a 2-2 draw against Germany. Milutinovic probably didn't realize that the team was far from happy with the result after a 2- 0 lead and that his rather pathetic error made the pan-Arab celebration of Iran's 2-1 victory over the United States look modest. It was Tanjug's turn because the experiment with federal television has been discontinued until the World Cup ends. The Montenegrin information secretary, Bozidar Jaredic, had to explain once again, because of Tanjug this time, that Momir Bulatovic's federal government keeps making decisions without consulting Montenegro.

Jaredic's statement was incited by last week's changes in the "national"  news agency. Bulatovic's government, openly qualified as "exile" by Milo  Djukanovic, appointed federal information minister Goran Matic as the new  president of Tanjug's board of directors. Matic confirmed his profession al flexibility last week when he first denied the federal government had  anything to do with the television experiment and then said the whole country would be watching the program in less than a month. According to newspaper reports, the government used standard procedure to sack Tanjug's Montenegrin deputies Dragan Djurovic and Bozidar Jaredic, to replace them  with Bulatovic's followers Budimir Simonovic, Zorica Stajic-Rabrenovic, and Dragisa Pesic, the newly appointed Finance Minister.

The former Yugoslav president, Zoran Lilic and JUL's hot shot Srdjan Smiljkovic lost the privilege of running Tanjug. Ivica Dacic is still there.

Nothing unusual happened for the local political customs. The open contest for Tanjug's new managing director has been of more interest to those who still follow staff reshuffling and party politics. The acting managing  director is Zoran Jevdjovic, a former Belgrade television reporter. Jevdjovic became famous for being "the emperor's private reporter" during the Dayton peace talks. However, the appearance of financial police in Tanjug's premises generated rumors of embezzlement and allocation of the agency's funds for private enterprising. Even if they are true, there is still nothing wrong. The Serbian regime has, among other things, made it habit of turning a blind eye on the activities of its "businessmen". They are free to do what they want until they are hit by "reconstruction".

© Copyright VREME NDA (1991-2001), all rights reserved.