Australian magazine retailers and distributors say they are being swamped by customers demanding copies of Charlie Hebdo, a publication they have never stocked.
The French satirical magazine usually has a print run of 60,000, but is publishing 5 million copies of a special “survivors’ issue” to mark the deaths of 12 people in the terrorist attack on its Paris office last week.
Its distributor has promised to ship copies around the world, including to Australia, triggering a rush to newsagents and other retailers.
“We’ve close to a couple hundred enquires now,” Vali Valibhoy, owner of Mag Nation in Melbourne, said.
“Yesterday a staff member who’d been fielding them all day started answering the phone with, ‘Hello, Mag Nation. I’m sorry, we don’t carry Charlie Hebdo’.”
Mr Valibhoy said he was confident his store could track down some copies of the special edition from a international distributor.
“I’d feel pretty uncomfortable profiting off something that’s come off the back of a tragedy,” he said.
“In this instance, I feel the moral price is too high.”
The front page of this week’s special edition features a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad, with a tear dripping from his eye.
Above him are the words “All is forgiven” in French.
Depicting the prophet is considered offensive by many Muslims, and there is concern the copy could provoke more anger from Islamic extremists.
Mr Valibhoy, himself a Muslim, said he did not find the cover offensive.
“I’d like to think that that’s exactly what the prophet would be doing – shedding a tear, being appalled at this behaviour,” he said, referring to the attacks by the Koachi brothers.
If Australian bookstores, newsagents and other retailers want to get hold of copies of Charlie Hebdo, they will have to go through a distributor like Speed Impex.
The Sydney-based company imports magazines from France, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Speed Impex manager Paula Pirazzi said a trickle of inquiries about Charlie Hebdo began on Monday, and grew to “a flood of them” later in the week.
Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson triggered debate on whether the magazine could be sold in Australia when he said earlier this week the magazine’s cartoons would likely be found in breach of section 18C of Australia’s racial discrimination act.
That has left Ms Pirazzi and other distributors worried.
“The people that do our distribution are checking with their legal people to make sure it is viable for us if we do get the copies,” she said.