Russia's journalists warn 'all democracy has been destroyed' as independent media flee country

"If you say 'the war is a war,' if you name things as they are, they may declare you as 'fake media' and jail you for 15 years"

Many of Russia's journalists have fled the country as President Putin's crackdown on the independent media intensifies.

This week, the radio station Echo of Moscow was taken off the air by the Russian media regulator and independent television channel TV Rain was blocked.

BBC World News has also been taken off air in Russia, the broadcaster said on Sunday with authorities restricting access to foreign and independent media outlets.

The channel has since announced it is suspending its operations and staff walked out live on-air at the end of its final broadcast.

ITV News spoke to TV Rain reporter Katya Kotrikadze who has fled the country along with many of her colleagues, warning it was "impossible to stay" given the dangers.

Why have many of Russia's independent journalists fled?

"Only a few" independent media outlets still remained in Russia, Katya Kotrikadze told ITV News, but after the invasion of Ukraine "terrible danger" awaited those people working in the industry.

The journalist said her, her family, and colleagues were aware a further media crackdown was imminent, as President Putin tries to control the narrative of his war on Ukraine.

"I had messages and threats from people saying they were 'coming for me' and so on," she said.

"We knew the law would be approved in Russia - and it was. If you say 'the war is a war' if you name things as they are, if you say that Russia invaded a neighbouring country, if you say that Vladimir Putin is responsible, if you say anything close to that, they may declare you as 'fake media' and jail you for 15 years.

"They're developing these new laws and actions against free journalists, independent people, and freedom of speech.

"I don't know what is left," she warned. "Everything that could have been done by Vladimir Putin is done, the levels of repression are terrible. Every single sign of democracy has been destroyed".

Are the Russian people getting any fair, non-state controlled reporting on the war?

For English speakers in the country, access to accurate reporting is greater, Ms Kotrikadze said as (on the whole) access to online media is not blocked.

She warned, however, that for mass audiences access to independent journalism has gone.

"It's not easy for people to get a reliable source and be with a channel 24/7."

TV Rain is, she said, "figuring out" how it might be able to continue delivering independent information to Russians.

"There is a huge amount of people who still trust the state propaganda machine," she said.