The public sphere on a digital plane: The influence of the new digital media on Ghana’s democracy and the Public Sphere


  • Ernest Darkwa Seven Hearts Ghana
  • Hrishikesh Inguva University of Toronto, Canada
  • Constance Osafo-Adjei Aglow, The Netherlands
  • Bridget Acquah Help the People Foundation, Ghana


Digital Media, Social Media, Public Sphere, Democracy, Discourse, Habermas


This paper examines how social media is providing a new digital public sphere and shaping the democratic process in Ghana. It draws on Habermas's public sphere theory to explore how social media has occupied a digital public sphere that creates spaces for democratic participation and public discourse. The paper reviews relevant literature on social media use as a tool of political communication, the new digital public sphere, and the democratic process in Ghana and globally. Since Ghana's return to democratic rule in 1992, the media landscape was initially dominated by traditional state and private media outlets. However, the rise of digital and social media over the past two decades has transformed the public sphere, creating online spaces for citizens to engage in political deliberations and share diverse viewpoints. The paper examines how social media played a crucial role in Ghana's 2020 elections, facilitating citizen political participation, public opinion formation, and activism despite COVID-19 restrictions on physical gatherings. Social media enabled political parties to campaign online, citizens to voice concerns, and interest groups to mobilize protests and demand accountability. While acknowledging the digital divide and attempts by political elites to control narratives, the paper argues that social media's interactive and connective structure has enhanced the public sphere by dismantling dominant discourses and amplifying alternative perspectives. The paper concludes by recommending robust fact-checking mechanisms and collaborative efforts from government, civil society, media, and interest groups to strengthen the digital public sphere's role in consolidating Ghana's democracy. Overall, it highlights social media's transformative impact on Ghana's public sphere and democratic processes.


Abdulai, A. G., & Sackeyfio, N. (2022). Introduction: The uncertainties of Ghana’s 2020 elections. African Affairs121(484), e25-e53.

Agomor, K. S. (2023). An Analysis of Public Participation in Policymaking Processes. In Public Policy in Ghana: Conceptual and Practical Insights (pp. 283-304). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Alhassan, R. (2021). Fact-checking Ghana’s social media elections.Ghana Fact. (Accessed on April 03, 2024) from

Amankwah, A. S., & Mbatha, B. (2019). Unlocking the potential of new media technologies for political communication about elections in ghana. Communicatio, 45(4), 44-63.

Anaman, G., Allor, P., & Kuffuor, O. (2023). International remittances and political participation in Ghana. Scientific African22, e01941.

Anim, P. A., Asiedu, F. O., Adams, M., Acheampong, G., & Boakye, E. (2019). “Mind the gap”: To succeed in marketing politics, think of social media innovation. The Journal of Consumer Marketing, 36(6), 806-817.

Asif, D. M., & Sandhu, M. S. (2023). Social Media Marketing Revolution in Pakistan: A Study of its Adoption and Impact on Business Performance. Journal of Business Insight and Innovation2(2), 67–77. Retrieved from

Asif, M. (2022). Integration of Information Technology in Financial Services and its Adoption by the Financial Sector in Pakistan. Inverge Journal of Social Sciences1(2), 23–35. Retrieved from

Asif, M., Adil Pasha, M., Shafiq, S., & Craine, I. (2022). Economic Impacts of Post COVID-19. Inverge Journal of Social Sciences1(1), 56–65. Retrieved from

Atengble, K. (2014). Social Media and Ghana’s 2012 Election Petition—A Discussion. Advances in Journalism and Communication, 2(03), 121-123.

Boateng, J. K., Boadi, C., Boateng, J., & Darkwa, E. (2024). Social Media and Electoral Disagreements in Ghana’s 2020 Election. In Communication and Electoral Politics in Ghana: Interrogating Transnational Technology, Discourse and Multimodalities (pp. 91-118). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Boateng, E. A. (2022). The Ghanaian Social Media Space: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. News Ghana. (Accessed on February 02, 2024) from https:/

Bokor, M. J. (2015). New media and democratization in Ghana: An impetus for political activism. Net Journal of Social Sciences, 2(1), 1-16.

Bruns, A., & Highfield, T. (2015). Is Habermas on Twitter? Social media and the public sphere. In The Routledge companion to social media and politics, pp.56-73. Routledge.

Calhoun, C. (1993). Civil society and the public sphere. Public Culture, 5(2), 267-280.

Callamard, A. (2010). Accountability, transparency, and freedom of expression in Africa. Social Research: An International Quarterly, 77(4), 1211-1240.

Cheeseman, N., Fisher, J., Hassan, I., & Hitchen, J. (2020). Nigeria's WhatsApp Politics. J. Democracy31, 145.

Dahlgren, P. (2012). Public intellectuals, online media, and public spheres: Current realignments. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 25(4), 95-110.

Dankwah, J. B., & Mensah, K. (2021). Political marketing and social media influence on young voters in Ghana. SN Social Sciences1(6), 152. (2024). Ghana Digital Data. GlobalDigitalInsights.

Dillon, S. (2012). To What Extent Was the Internet a Factor for Barack Obama in Becoming the Democratic Party’s Nominee for the 2008 US Presidential Elections? POLIS Journal, 7, 165-210.

Dzisah, W. S. (2018). Social media and elections in Ghana: Enhancing democratic participation. African Journalism Studies, 39(1), 27-47.

Dzisah, W. S. (2023). Public Policymaking in the Age of New Media. In Public Policy in Ghana: Conceptual and Practical Insights (pp. 221-236). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Fisher, J., Gadjanova, E., & Hitchen, J. (2023). WhatsApp and political communication in West Africa: Accounting for differences in parties’ organization and message discipline online. Party Politics, 13540688231188690.

Fraser, N. (1992). Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing
democracy. In C. Calhoun (Ed.), Habermas and the public sphere (pp.109–142). Cam-
bridge, MA: MIT Press.

Fraser, N. (2020). Transnationalizing the public sphere: On the legitimacy and efficacy of public opinion in a post-Westphalian world. In Habermas and Law (pp. 379-402). Routledge.

Frimpong, A. N.K., Li, P., Nyame, G., & Hossin, M. A. (2022). The impact of social media political activists on voting patterns. Political Behavior, 1-54.

Gadjanova, E., Lynch, G., Reifler, J., & Saibu, G. (2019). Social media, cyber battalions, and political mobilisation in Ghana. Exeter: University of Exeter.

Gadjanova, E., Lynch, G., & Saibu, G. (2022). Misinformation across digital divides: theory and evidence from northern Ghana. African Affairs121(483), 161-195.

Gupta, M. (2011). The Radia Tapes, WikiLeaks and Insurgent Media. Economic and Political Weekly, 46(4), 10-12.

Gyampo, R. E. V. (2017a). Social media, traditional media, and party politics in Ghana. Africa Review9(2), 125-139.

Gyampo, R. E.V. (2017b). Political parties and social media in Ghana. Africology: The Journal of Pan African Stu10.

Habermas, J. (1989). The structural transformation of the public sphere: An inquiry into a cat-
egory of bourgeois society
(T. Burger, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG). (2020). Training Workshop for Political Parties on the Usage of the Virtual Public Space for the 2020 Elections. Accra: IDEG. (Accessed on April 06, 2024) from

Kang, J. (2010). The media and the crisis of democracy: rethinking aesthetic politics. Theoria, 57(124), 1-22.

Kumi, E. (2022). Pandemic democracy: The nexus of covid-19, shrinking civic space for civil society organizations and the 2020 elections in ghana. Democratization, 29(5), 939-957.

Laary, D. (2022). Ghanaian journalists face a crackdown on free speech. Development and cooperation. (Accessed April 04, 2024 from backwards-journalists-are-being-prosecuted-under-criminal

Lynch, G., Saibu, G., & Gadjanova, E. (2022). WhatsApp and political messaging at the periphery: Insights from northern Ghana. Zed Books/Bloomsbury Publishing.

Najatu, U., Chentiba, A. T., & Mumuni, E. (2024). Dialogic Communication on Digital Platforms as Public Relations Technique: A Case of Two Political Parties. In Communication and Electoral Politics in Ghana: Interrogating Transnational Technology, Discourse and Multimodalities (pp. 119-139). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Nutsugah, N., Kuupuolo, E., & Peculiar, T. (2024). A systematic review of social media research in Ghana: gaps and future research avenues. Annals of the International Communication Association, 1-15.

Oluwole, M. (2016). An Overview of The Freedom of Information Act, An Appraisal from a Lawyer’s Perspective, Lagos: SPA Ajibade & Co.

Roese, V. (2018). 14. You won’t believe how co-dependent they are. In From Media Hype to Twitter Storm (pp. 313-332). Amsterdam University Press.

Penplusbytes. (2016). Digital Campaigns and Elections: What works? Policy Briefs. Penplusbytes.

Penplusbytes. (2017). Social Media and Political Campaigning in Ghana. Accra: Penplusbytes. (Accessed on April 03, 2024) https://www.

Prempeh, C. (2023). Digital Cultures, Voice, and (New) Forms of Civic Participation in Ghana. In Digital Technologies, Elections and Campaigns in Africa (pp. 227-244). Routledge.

Shardow, M. S., & Asare, B. E. (2016). Media ownership and independence: Implications for democratic governance in the fourth republic of Ghana. Journal of Pan African Studies, 9(9), 180.

Squires, C. R. (2002). Rethinking the black public sphere: An alternative vocabulary for multiple public spheres. Communication Theory12(4), 446-468.

Suleiman, S. A. (2017). Habermas in Africa? Re-interrogating the “public sphere” and “civil society” in African political communication research. Political Communication in Africa, 81-99.

Temin, J., & Smith, D. A. (2002). Media matters: Evaluating the role of the media in Ghana’s 2000 elections. African Affairs, 101(405), 585-605.

Tettey, W. J. (2017). Mobile telephony and democracy in ghana: Interrogating the changing ecology of citizen engagement and political communication. Telecommunications Policy, 41(7-8), 685-694.

VonDoepp, P., & Young, D. J. (2013). Assaults on the fourth estate: Explaining media harassment in Africa. The Journal of Politics, 75(1), 36-51.

Zia, A. S. (2012). Social Media Politics in Pakistan. Economic and Political Weekly, 47(7), 16-18.



How to Cite

Darkwa, E., Inguva, H., Osafo-Adjei, C., & Acquah, B. (2024). The public sphere on a digital plane: The influence of the new digital media on Ghana’s democracy and the Public Sphere. Inverge Journal of Social Sciences, 3(2), 46–62. Retrieved from

Similar Articles

1 2 3 4 5 6 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.

Most read articles by the same author(s)