The first contested election for chief executive may be a historic event, but journalists - who have an obvious role in keeping the public updated about the race - are finding the flow of information leaves much to be desired. Sometimes, it seems that obstacles are being deliberately put in the media's way. For example, a host of election-related material, such as the candidates' nomination forms, advertisements, expenses and correspondence, is sitting in the Registration and Electoral Office in Wan Chai, open for inspection by the public. It seems, however, to be up to officials to rule on how these 'inspections' are carried out. It is OK to read the material, but you are first reminded that you cannot take notes or photocopies. Once the files land on a desk, you are monitored by a staff member who ensures nothing is written down. In the event that a couple of journalists are present, the staff member also ensures they do not read the same file at the same time, although it is hard to guess the rationale behind this. The apparent tightening of restrictions has perplexed those who covered the last chief executive election less than two years ago - when reporters were allowed to copy such information freely. Yet a spokesman for the Registration and Electoral Office insists its practices have not changed and the information is only available for public inspection under the Chief Executive Ordinance and the Electoral Procedure (Chief Executive Election) Regulation. The spokesman said the office had received legal advice that public inspection meant 'examine closely' and nothing else - although he noted many journalists had 'memorised' the information and reported it on many occasions. But if the electoral body is truly to honour its goal as stated on its website - ensuring the elections are conducted openly, honestly and fairly - then perhaps it is time for it to shed such conservative practices and allow election-related information to flow as freely as possible. It would then be doing a service not only to the candidates but to the public.