Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Russian authorities to end their "attacks on artistic freedom," after police in Moscow launched an audit of an independent theater known for productions focusing on societal issues.
The audit of Theater Doc was launched earlier this month, with the authorities saying they were looking for signs of promotion of terrorism, drugs, and "gay propaganda" in three of its productions, HRW said in a statement on November 28.
The head of Theater Doc, Aleksandr Rodionov, was interviewed by police this week, the New York-based group said.
Russian authorities "increasingly crack down on artistic expression," according to Tanya Lokshina, associate Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, with theater productions, films, and exhibits deemed "out of line with so-called traditional values and patriotic sentiment" being banned.
They also "interfere with performances of rappers and other musicians popular with younger audiences, supposedly with the aim of protecting children from promotion of suicide, narcotics, and propaganda of 'non-traditional sexual relations,'" the statement added.
HRW said one Theater Doc production in question tells the challenges gays in Russia are facing.
Another is about the war in eastern Ukraine, Russian government propaganda, and the case of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who spent five years in Russian custody.
The third production deals with the stigmatization of drug users in Russian society and their treatment by the authorities.