Roughly translated this means ‘free speech’ and it is the name of the group that owns Olga Magazine and owns a newspaper under the same name. Suara Merdeka lives up to its title as it was one of the first Indonesian newspapers and is the oldest paper in Central Java. While the newspaper has its own history and played a major part in the Indonesian people’s expression the lesser known story is that of its printing plant that I visited in my first week here.
The printing plant was officially opened in 1980 even if it had been operating illegally 2 years earlier. The printing press was especially important because it was a locally owned and operated plant. Suara Merdeka had been printed at Enay, a Dutch-owned printing plant before this time but once Indonesia regained its independence Enay soon fell into bankrupty. The emergence of the Suara Merdeka printing plant was important in demonstrating how Indonesia was reclaiming itself after its Dutch colonization.
The area right outside Semarang and near the city of Demak used to be the centre of the province when it was under Dutch ruling. Now, it is just a shadow of the capital city it once was. You can still see the Dutch influence in the architecture and this is actually where you will find the Blenduk Church monument that I talked about.
As beautiful as some of the buildings are they are all very old and crumbling at the bases. The sea level in this area rises by 10 cm every year. The city is literally sinking. You can see watermarks at the bases of all the buildings and sea water seeps up from the ground at any of the lower levels. It is even worse during rainy season.
This area was abandoned but the land around it was bought by companies who used the space to build new factories because they would be close to the sea port that Semarang is famous for. These factories kept the cities alive and have created Semarang`s major income source as an industrial city. Suara Merdeka Printing plant has played a very important part for Indonesia, the province of central Java and on a very local level for the city of Semarang.