The US version of Shock is fighting for its shelf life.
It has been removed from the shelves of two major retailers: Borders, a leading bookstore, and RiteAid, a large drug store chain.
The moves follow complaints by a former military photographer over the use of one of his pictures on the cover of Shock's first American issue. The photographer, Michael Yon, who served with the Green Berets, says the picture — showing a Marine Corps officer cradling an Iraqi girl who was dying as a result of a suicide car bomb — was used without his permission. Also that the picture was used in an "anti-military" manner, a claim the publisher of Shock disputes, pointing out the cover line on the picture reads ‘War is Still Hell"
The photographer has mounted a campaign against the use of the picture, including sending e-mails urging would-be readers to pressure stores to stop selling the magazine. He insists the photo is "sacred" to him and that he never gave permission for the picture to be used.
The publisher of Shock, Hachette Filipacchi Media, admits it made a mistake when it bought the picture from Polaris Images, which it now turns out did not own the rights. But Hachette insists it acted in good faith, made an innocent mistake and tried to reach a settlement with the photographer after the issue with the controversial photograph hit the news stands.
Yon, the publisher claims, initially asked for the magazine to be recalled but, according to the New York Post, backed down after they had reached an initial settlement. After the deal collapsed the photographer began his e-mail campaign.
Now Hachette has launched its own campaign urging major news dealers and distributors in the US to continue or resume selling the magazine and not knuckle down to what it calls a censorship campaign. The company's chief executive, Jack Kliger, claims the campaign against Shock has been "scripted".
"I don't mind if I get complaints from readers after they have seen it. That's their right and I expect that – but this is some Pied Piper telling everyone what to think. They're not readers, they are followers."
Sales figures for the first US issue of Shock – which is due to remain on newsstands in the US for another week – are not yet available. Initially the publisher printed and distributed 300,000 copies.