Since we seem to be back in 2008 this year, I’m going to use it as an excuse to blog an exchange I had in September of that year with a young lady who was then working as a translator for the Serbian news agency Tanjug. I hadn’t gotten around to it at the time, and while there are no great revelations here, I did want to have a record of what she told me, given that Serbia’s detractors historically have tried to paint Tanjug as “Serbian propaganda,” despite its record of showing great deference to Serbia’s enemies, even in wartime.

Dear Miss Gorin,

I work as a translator at a Belgrade news agency…and amid piles of politically-monotonous (or should I say, narrow-minded and maliciously biased) articles from mainstream British, US, French and Italian press we are translating every day, some time ago I ran into a refreshing one written by you and defending Serbian stance on Kosovo. I was shocked to see a piece of writing on us that did not contain omnipresent phrases like ‘’nationalists, genocide, ethnic-cleansing of Albanians - or should I say ‘’Kosovars'’ whoever those are - etc.

Although I’ve just graduated recently and have been working only for a year and a half, I’ve already got used to translating things like an travelogue from [UK Telegraph] which claimed that Montenegro is much better off without tourists from Serbia since they used to come in trucks full of chickens and then would slay one for the dinner every day (!). The same article also claimed that “Dubrovnic” is the capital of Croatia, but those hapless chickens are what really got to me…

What I meant to say by this long-winded prologue is that I’m pretty sick of the media idiocy (including the auto-destructive, cowardly Serbian media who do not dare raise their voice against the blatant lies) I (un)willingly participate in as a translator…

Tanjug is basically a state agency, which means that the government imposes the CEO (if you’re not a member of a political party in Serbia you won’t get anywhere) and he dictates the house policy. And since our government at the moment is a most uncanny motley crew, with only one thing in common — they all have a lot of political (some of them maybe even criminal) baggage or are simply wusses, so they’ll swallow up any insult, humiliate themselves and the country just so as to not anger the ‘’international community'’. So, that’s the policy of Tanjug as well, I guess — accept everything with a smile.

However, only a small portion of articles we translate ends up in Serbian dailies, even if the said dailies are as self-loathing as you get. I suppose they don’t want to raise tensions among the people - there’s just so many humiliations you can stand.

Meanwhile, this may be wrong-headed, but one does get some small satisfaction that “Jug” (as in Jugoslavia) is still the root word of the agency name. It seems almost like a small act of subversion or insolence to the New World Order.