Country Listing

Yugoslavia Table of Contents


The Media

Throughout the postwar period, the Yugoslav press differed from press institutions in the other Soviet Bloc countries because it saw itself primarily as a source of information, and only secondarily as an instrument of party control--despite the official party view that the press should be primarily a vehicle of political education. In the 1980s, the expression of independent viewpoints in the Yugoslav press generally grew. In 1981 protests by the journalistic community broke a governmentenforced silence about ethnic strife in Kosovo. A new federal press law was passed in 1985 to broaden and standardize the types of information available to the public through the newspapers. During that time the press consistently criticized government political and economic policy, as well as the Federal Executive Council and the national and regional parties. The State Presidency received less negative comment. On the other hand, journalists were required to join the party-controlled League of Journalists of Yugoslavia. Expulsion from the league meant the end of a career. Topics generally closed to objective press discussion in the 1980s were foreign policy, revision of official national history, religious policy, and nationalities policy. In the politically charged period of the Fourteenth Party Congress (January 1990), press restraint decreased noticeably, as dissident movements, corruption, and prison conditions received particular attention.

Besides the effect of censorship, the lack of a centralized information system also made the flow of public information through Yugoslavia uneven. Each Yugoslav republic had its own press system, and the media operated as individual self-managed enterprises. Tanjug, the national news agency, acted as the "official source" of stories, and its coverage provided guidance in the handling of controversial topics. Because unpopular publications were not subsidized, the profit motive made periodicals responsive to reader needs.

All media required the political sponsorship of national or regional Socialist Alliances, and each system reflected the national political position of its region. The most extreme example of this in the late 1980s was the daily newspaper Politika, published in Belgrade. That daily, an object of great respect since its founding before World War I, came under the complete control of the Milosevic government. As the main organ of the Serbian nationalist propaganda campaign based on the Kosovo issue, Politika engaged in sharp polemics with Delo, the official organ of the Slovenian Socialist Alliance of Working People, and other daily publications. By 1990 other elements of the Serbian media were also controlled by the Milosevic faction. In general, the Yugoslav youth press was the most troublesome to political authorities; periodicals in this category discussed all taboo topics without being eliminated, but they were constantly harassed by authorities. One of the most controversial periodicals of the late 1980s was Mladina, a Slovenian student weekly whose wide circulation spread the most radical political ideas developed in that republic.

Data as of December 1990