Vigils for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris are being held in Wellington and Auckland in the coming days.

On its website, the French Embassy said the "spontaneous popular initiatives" were so New Zealanders could stand in solidarity with the satirical magazine and families of the victims.

A gathering was organised tonight in Wellington outside the embassy on Manners St from 7pm. Another will be held in Auckland tomorrow from 5pm on Queen St.

Pauline Foucher from the French Embassy said she expected more than 100 people to gather at tonight's vigil.

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She said people had been asked to bring flags and posters to tonight's event, where people will have an opportunity to pay their respects and be together in the face of what happened.

The attack, which left 12 dead and eight injured, including four in a critical condition, has been globally condemned as an attack on free speech.

The New Zealand Government said the attack on the Fourth Estate and the democratic principles of freedom of speech and expression must be strongly condemned.

Prime Minister John Key strongly condemned the attack.

"Our thoughts are with the families of those who have lost loved ones, those injured in this brutal attack, and the people of France," Mr Key said.

"The targeting of journalists going about their daily work is an attack on the Fourth Estate and the democratic principles of freedom of speech and expression, which must be strongly condemned."

Labour leader Andrew Little described the attack as a "shocking attack on freedom of speech" and "an assault on democracy and freedom of expression".

A condolence book has also been opened at the reception of the French Embassy in Wellington today for the public to sign, and will also be available to sign tomorrow.

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So far the book had around 20 messages inside.

Anouchka Filc, 30, from Wellington, went to pay her respects this afternoon after spending a sleepless night watching the news unfold on the television and internet.

"I saw on the internet there was a book to write some words for what happened ... to show that we can't accept what has happened, and that we won't forget and we won't forgive.

"I told the families of the victims that the attack was an attack to the republic, to press liberty and I said we will never forgive."

Ms Filc said she was very shocked and was still struggling to believe what had happened.

"It was unrealistic for the first few hours I was like 'That's not possible, it can't be true it can't happen in France'."

Ms Filc said the newspaper was known for "shaking" people up and considered the event to be an attack against liberty.

Nathalie Buckrell, director of Alliance Francaise Wellington, said satirical news was part of the French identity.

"The heart of France has been attacked," she said.

"We woke up with the news, it's been a shock, it still is and we are feeling helpless."

She said tonight's gathering outside the embassy was a way for the French community in Wellington to come together on this sad day.

"We have told all our friends and our family members to come ... There is that need for us to be together and talk about it. We can't just pretend it's not happening.

"At the end of the day all they were doing was drawing ... we still can't believe it I don't think. We are shocked by the way it all happened, it's really scary."

Media Freedom Committee chairwoman and Press editor Joanna Norris said the "cold-blooded murder of our colleagues cannot have a chilling effect".

"The work of journalists, satirists and cartoonists around the world, must be supported. Without freedom of expression, we lose the capacity to highlight and right wrongs, hold leaders and policy-makers to account and to challenge evil wherever it occurs.

"We must stand with the French people and all publishers and reject this violence and intimidation which has no place in the civilised world."

At this stage there were no reports of any New Zealanders caught up in the attack.

New Zealanders in Paris were advised to follow the advice of the local authorities and register their details at www.safetravel.co.nz.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said there were 64 New Zealanders registered with the ministry as being in Paris.

"At this stage it appears no New Zealanders have been caught up in the Paris attack, however the New Zealand Embassy continues to liaise with local authorities."

The ministry's travel advisory for France has been updated with reference to today's attack, she said.

"The risk level for France remains at "some risk" due to the ongoing threat from terrorism and we advise caution," she said.

- additional reporting NZ Herald