After the fuss over Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's impending attendance at the annual May Day reception of the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), his appearance was carefully stage managed to avoid direct contact with leaders who are candidates in the forthcoming election. Still, the event has highlighted the delicacy of the present situation, and the need for scrupulous even-handedness in public appearances. Mr Tung could hardly attend the function without making laudatory remarks about the organisation. But when political sensitivities are heightened as they are at present, any praise is open to misinterpretation - and his speech extolling the contribution that the FTU has made to Hong Kong could be regarded as showing favour to the candidacy of members. The election period requires the Government to be scrupulous about maintaining a neutral stance, and the Electoral Affairs Commission chairman, Justice Woo Kwok-hing, has urged senior officials to make sure they do not give unwitting endorsement to candidates. What is becoming evident is that this is no easy task. In a small and tightly knit community, it is almost impossible for officials and politicians to avoid all contact. Indeed, it could be artificial for them to do so. The important thing is that they should not say or do anything which looks as if they are giving approval to one party or individual. Whether they can actually influence voters is beside the point: they must remain above the fray and strive to keep clear of partisan politics. Mr Justice Woo also suggested that the media should not print photographs showing candidates and politicians together. But, if the two do meet, it is not the function of the press to censor itself. Freedom to report fully and accurately as much as possible of what takes place in the coming weeks is part of an open, fair and credible election process. The onus is on the individuals concerned to act in an appropriate manner. If they do not do so, the media cannot be called on to act as a safety net: indeed, they may need to draw attention to any lapses from the standards laid down by Mr Justice Woo.