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Serbia Shuts 72-Year News Agency After No Buyers Emerge

The Serbian government started shutting down the 72-year-old Tanjug news agency November 4 after two failed attempts to privatize the one-time mouthpiece of socialist Yugoslavia.

Tanjug, short for Telegraphic Agency of the New Yugoslavia, was among 38 state-owned media outlets put up for sale in a campaign to end state ownership and reduce Serbia's footprint on the economy as it seeks to join the European Union.

But two auctions at starting prices as high as 761,000 euros ($831,000) failed to attract buyers. Meanwhile, the law keeping the agency alive expired October 31.

"All employees will receive severance payments...and will be paid for their work" until it is shut down, probably by the end of the month, the government said.

Mirko Dragisic, a union activist, said that Tanjug director Branka Mitrovic informed employees of the decision November 3.

Tanjug employs around 200 people, a tiny fraction of the global network of correspondents the agency boasted during its heyday as the voice of Yugoslavia, which broke up violently in the early 1990s.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa