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Free Pass by the Media – Why Muted Criticism of Certain Administrations on Mismanagement of COVID-19?

As COVID-19 infections surge and health infrastructure comes under unprecedented pressure, common citizens have been expressing their anger against  various State Governments. While the pain and anguish of those whose loved ones struggle to make it is understandable, a certain section of media, known for seeking all kinds of answers from the Government of India seems to be giving a free pass to selected States and their respective administrations.

‘The Print’ has received flak from multiple users of social media for its interview with Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Bhagel. The editor of the portal tweeted it saying, “Young reporters from ThePrint reach where the story is…” But anyone who read the interview perhaps realised that the ‘young reporter’ and ThePrint just let the Chief Minister use the interaction as an opportunity to carry out his public relation exercise; there is not a single counter-question to the tall claims of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister.

In fact, statements that Bhupesh Bhagel made warrant a fact check.

  • The CM claimed that the Centre has not alerted the State about second wave of COVID-19. But the Centre did ask Chhattisgarh along with some other states to be vigilant about the possible second wave of infection. In fact, ThePrint itself had reported of this.

  • Further, in the interview the Chief Minister says that the Centre is not providing enough vaccines. At this point, ‘the young reporter’ never felt the need to ask why did the State Government initially cast aspersions on the efficacy of the vaccine by not accepting made-in-India COVAXIN doses.
Chhattisgarh COVID-19 Management Record

The portal in question is perhaps just one example of a certain kind of narrative building exercise; notably the media at large has avoided questioning Chhattisgarh CM regarding his handling of COVID-19 situation.

At a time when Chhattisgarh was accounting for major share of infections along with 4-5 other states, CM Bhupesh Bhagel was busy managing elections for the Congress in in poll-bound States of Assam and West Bengal. He even skipped the PM’s COVID-19 review meetings with CMs along with Mamata Banerjee.

These headlines speak about the plight of Chhattisgarh in dealing with COVID-19 second wave.

Despite of the glaring negligence, when Rahul Gandhi accuses the Centre of mismanaging the pandemic, one wonders why the media has never asked him as to why the Congress-ruled State of Chhattisgarh is worst-affected, despite having a relatively lesser population compared to States like Uttar Pradesh.

Clearly, this section of media and opinion makers are giving a free pass to the Chhattisgarh administration by being economical in their criticism.

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